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Mike got to Stone's side two minutes later,
after being pointed in the right direction by
crews already on the job assessing the problem.
Ben was deep in plans of the refinery with
a team of plant engineers. When there
was a pause in orders, Mike stepped forward.
"Captain. I'm a fill-in. Stoker, engineer,
for Station 51." he shouted to him through
the breathing mask.

"Drop the formalities Mike. I already know who
you are. Everybody on my crew knows each
man in your stationhouse intimately.
We've been watching over your scene for
almost a day now, making sure nothing else
went wrong and we were the ones who went
over your building to ensure its structural safety."
Ben said, shouting loudly to be heard through his
own SCBA gear.
"Now, I want you to familiarize yourself with
what we got..  Two of my men say underneath
that natural gas tower spire is where the ground fissure
began. It's still settling in areas and that's how
a fireman on inspection found it. His truck literally
fell into it last tremor.. That is what ruptured the

Mike Stoker squinted up through his facemask's
plexiglass into the sunlight and saw three huge
storage tanks full of petroleum ringing them in a
triangle and a water cooling facility, networked
over their heads, tying the three tanks together
into a complicated lattice of ductwork and piping,
where the blue sky wasn't showing.  Hastily
thrown yellow cones had been placed beneath
the open area, showing the newly discovered
patches of ground instability. From the
fissure, rising steam rose into the air and it smelled
pungently of natural gas indicator even through
his airmask's filter.

The earthquake fissure had snaked its way under
two large coolant water pipes, just missing the
edge of concrete that was the bed for one of
the oil storage reservoirs.  ::Great, its
surrounded by three giant powder kegs.::
Mike thought gloomily.

The place where the trapped battalion firetruck
stuck front end down into the ground, was being
liberally foamed and washed down to keep all
possibility of fire from occurring. Dust was still
mingling with the steam from the fissure as earth
and debris settled restlessly around the aggressive
hose wash playing down into it.

Stoker turned to Stone. "Your man got out
of that truck, ok? " he shouted over the noise
of steam and shouts of firecrews giving and
carrying out orders.

"Yeah, he leaped out the window the second
he smelled gas and luckily managed to fight
his way out of the growing sinkhole.
He says our problem's a transverse pipe break
through the mother line leading from
tank two here, clean, but entirely severed through."
Stone replied. "It's the pooling gas that I'm primarily
concerned about right now. Arco's engineers are
already passively diverting all the gas out of this
nearest substation in prep for a manual
shutdown to this broken pipe. It's gonna take a
bit. Even though the master valve at the top of
this stack has been shut down, gravity will still
cause the rest of the gas from that storage tank
to drain out  through the break. I'd say it's leaking
around 200 gallons a minute into the ground.
The capacity of that secondary gas holding tank
coming from the larger one, is around
250,000 gallons total. Now the facility
designers assure me that none of this gas will
leak into the water table because an artficial catch
barrier lies underneath this whole refinery complex.
It was designed that way for just this kind of

"Is the power off?" Mike said.

"Yeah. Been so, since the first quake. All the shutdowns
the refinery workers have been doing have been
done by hand. Work's taking six times longer
than normal to carry out their shutdown procedures..
That detail is the only thing keeping us from
getting this scene under control as fast as anticipated."

"Where do you want me?"

"Take a front inch and a half with Stubbs. Then
you'll get a better feel for things for that report
to your captain. Keep your air bottle on. The wind's
not strong enough to keep down these fumes.."
Stone said, readjusting his helmet over his mask.

"Yes, sir.." Stoker replied, rechecking the straps
on his own bottle to be sure they were securely

He ran over through the fire repellent foam and over
to the first hose team playing a covering wash over
the downed truck and the downhill side of the fissure.
He tapped the trailing man's shoulder and took his
place. The departing man gave Mike a thumbs up
when he recognized the Station 51 engineer and
gave him an affectionate thump on the back of
his overcoat.

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Mike grinned, feeling protected and awed once
again at the comaraderie shared between their
district stations, drawn closer together, in the
face of adversity.::And I don't even know him.::

He and others continued to fan a soup of
gas hostile chemicals and water through their
fire engine hoses into the fissure.

Dimly, through the spray of water, Mike could
see refinery workers scrambling like ants all
over the piping station over his head, turning
off valve after valve, in a desperate attempt
to curb the leaking gas below.  

In between a fire engine chemical trade off
to their water line, Mike thumbed his HT and
spoke to Cap. "Station 51, This is Engine 51.."

Cap was on instantly. ##Go ahead Engine 51.##

"Cap. An FD vehicle falling into a ground sink caused
the pipe break. It's foamed and being washed.
But the danger of at least 250,000 gallons of natural
gas getting into the ground still exists because
the power outtages are effecting mechanized
system shutdowns.. Fumes are moderate and blowing
down wind away from the boulevard's triage area and
you." he shouted through his faceplate.


"None so far.. And Cap, on a side note..
A man's been sent to the airport for the bats.."

##That's good news.. Watch your back Stoker.
Thanks for the report.##

Mike Stoker got a go ahead gesture from the new
engine's engineer to charge the hose once
more to continue their task. "Gotta go, Cap.
Let me know what happens over there ASAP."

##We will pal.. Station 51 out.##

Cap's eyes were glued to the west and towards
the refinery. "Be careful Stoker. Even fumes are
enough for a spark to ignite." he mumbled
to himself.


Roy and the others in the bunk house were
all awake and on their feet.

Chet was right there by Marco as usual
and he shivered, "Man.." he said, " I
cold. Anyone got a blanket?"

Kel Brackett tossed him one, smiling.

Kelly bundled himself up inside of it
and crossed his arms together to
warm himself when a finger snagged
on the cotton wad and bandaid Gage
had left secured to his arm.
"Hey.. What's this?" He immediately
recognized the creator of the sinister
smiley face drawn there.
"Gage..!" he began.

Johnny was showing Miss Thorne
where to find shower things and
a T shirt and jeans to replace her
own dirty dress.  "Be right there,
Chet.." he shouted back from the
locker room.

Dr. Brackett  added, "Before you
go ripping into your crewmate about
another Phantom strike. Blame me.
I ordered him to take blood from you
for Marco."

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Roy was just smiling where he was
draining the last of his 7up bottle
dry. "Got me too Chet. Didn't even
feel it." and he pointed to his own
cotton wadded bandaid.

Chet's eyes flickered to the wall
above Marco's bed and saw the
blood bag hanging there. "You mean
that's my blood hanging up there
going into him?"

"Yeah.." Roy said. He wondered if
Chet was going to work himself into
a faint over it all. He started nearer.

But Chet's face widened into an amazing
smile and he said, "Far out.. we're blood
brothers, man. We're REALLY family now,
know what I mean?   Real tight like forever."

Roy smiled shyly at Kelly's sense of wonder
at a simple medical marvel.

Johnny stepped into the room, closing
the locker room door to give Cindy some
privacy to shower and change. "Not
forever Chet, only for about two weeks,
until Marco's spleen and bone marrow
makes more whole blood to replace yours
and Roy's."

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