Three minutes later, Kelly and Stoker|
closed in their ambush on the lanky teen
who was saundering
around the crash zone
in stolen fireman's gear. He looked almost
comical with his bloody white
shoes sticking out of the tan pants.
"Got ya!" Stoker said, using the severed
hose as a lasso.
Chet brandished both fire hooks like
medieval lances and he framed the startled
young man with them keeping him from running
into one of the live powerlines twitching on the
ground. "Stupid kid. Start stripping, right now!
And be fast about it."
"Ok, ok, What's
the big deal? I was just having
a little fun ya know? My friends couldn't get
anywhere near here
because they didn't have
the right threads.." the teen sputtered, giving
up and hastily peeling
off the contraband.
"Where'd you get it?" Kelly demanded.
"I don't know.. Somewhere back
Near the nose cone. Nobody was watching
it. These things were just lying on the ground...."
That disturbed both of 51's firefighters into
Mike Stoker freed
the boy from his restraints.
"Now listen carefully, your life may depend on
Kelly threw down one of the hooks until it
connected with a hidden power line and
and blue sparks crackled and roared
to life around it until the energy kicked the
metal end of
The teen flinched and paled considerably.
"See that? This whole place is littered
live electrical lines and fuel puddles just
waiting for some dumb kid to come along
fry himself to death just for stepping
in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The kid rapidly grew terrified. "Uh, huh..uh h-..uh."
he nodded quickly. "I can see
that...." he squeaked.
"Now get out of here.. Follow along on top of
that dead fire hose to
the uneffected streets pronto.
And don't come back..... And I do mean ON TOP.
You just may make
it out of here alive..." Mike
The kid fled.
"Oo, man... Stoker,.." Chet
laughed once the cowed
teenager had gone considerable distance away
from them. "Remind me to never
be reborn as
one of your kids, ok? You make the wrath of G*d
Moses felt seem t--"
was no longer listening. He had
lifted the jacket from the ground and was
wiping the soot over
the letters on the back of
it, away, with a wet passenger sweater.
Simultaneously, the rising
touched the curving mass of a severed
chunk of the airplane and glinted off twisted
metal of red and silver chrome, something
not found on any aircraft.
Kelly gaped. "Ohmyg*d.."
Stoker's HT flew to his mouth and he
thumbed the talk button over the steady
buzzing from the speaker.
"Break! Break! Break! HT 51 to Battalion 14.
Unit down. I repeat. Unit
down. We've just
found a fire engine under the nose cone.
ID is Station 10!"
From : Cory Anda <firstname.lastname@example.org>
: Friday, March 12, 2004 1:29 AM
Subject : High Rescue
Megan stirred from where she lay
Johnny Gage's chest. His hand had gripped
the base of her throat, feeling for the big
pulse point that she knew she had there.
"Mr. Gage? Are you all right?" she asked
her bandaged head and eyes
from the fast rise and fall of his breathing.
A grunt of pain
from a dry throat greeted her ears.
"Mr. Gage? Did you hear me?"
Finally, she got a croak
"*cough* I... was just....about to ask you the same
thing, Megan." said his voice,
muffled by the black
rubber surgical oxygen mask Megan had strapped
onto his face. "Are we still
safe in here? I ..kinda l-lost
track of time." he moaned, sliding the flowing mask
off his mouth
to his chin so that she could better
"Sure are. I've been crawling to the
door every five
minutes to check it for hot spots or smoke coming
from the bottom of the door."
Johnny opened his eyes blearily and blinked away
lingering grogginess that still fogged him
exposure to the chemical smoke from the patient room
Megan and he had escaped from.
Experimentally, he took in a deep breath. Immediately,
bubbling liquid made him choke in
reflex but the spasms
that had plagued him before the atropine injection
"Good job with giving me that
shot Megan. I- I think I've turned the corner."
Gage saw Megan's
hands blindly grope around on his
stomach until they located both of his caked palms in
and sweaty grip. "I was so worried Mr. Gage.
I- I thought your lungs were going to stop getting enough
air for you. It was scary hearing those noises.
They were all whistles and squeaks and you got
sweaty and cold, too, for a long time. I tried to cover
you up but I couldn't find a blanket."
Johnny glanced with irony at the shelves of surgical
sheeting that were folded on the linen
above Megan's eye wrapped head's height. "That's ok. I...
feel better now. You've
nursed me through just fine here."
and he leaned over to cough and spit some thick
of his mouth. "How'd ya.. how'd ya
keep track of when to recheck the door again
for fire and
smoke with your eyes wrapped up like
they are?" he asked, shifting slowly to hands and
testing his body's strength and condition to
see if he could manage standing.
Gage's watch went off and he startled
as its shrill, trebled diving alarm pierced the stillness of
the store room.
Megan's bandaged face split into a toothy smile.
"I recognized your watch,
Mr. Gage. My dad's got one
just like it and I knew which button to hit to set the timer
five minute low air interval warning."
"Oh yeah? Those are mighty big words for a nine year old."
Gage scoffed, teasing her. He threw partially focusing eyes
downwards to make sure that Megan
had indeed pulled out the
syringe needle from his hip before he turned off the
on the watch. "Don't know if I believe you."
he said with a grin, not being able to help himself.
to make her think of something else other than him to bolster
her own confidence, mentally
"Oh yeah? Well I can tell you that I checked that door five times
decided to nap on me. And yes, I've been told I've
got a mighty big brain for school learning, especially
when I write and talk about all of daddy's diving trips to the
Bahamas." Megan said with indignation.
believe me cause it's what happened. You were out for
all that time."
reached out with come here hands. "Hey..I'm just kidding.
I forgot you can't see the smile on my
I'd have you on my engine crew watching over my rear in
a house fire any day
of the week, Megan. You really
saved my bacon a half hour ago and I'm not going to forget
anytime soon. Come here. A grateful guy wants to dish
out a hug or two in thanks, all right?"
Megan rushed into Johnny's arms as he stood up
on shaky legs. "There..." he said. "I'm all right
so are you, hon. No need for tears. Now. Let's get the
heck out of here like we both wanna
do." he complained.
He set her briefly on the stack of boxes as he turned off
tank they had both used and he checked both
their vitals signs to reassure paramedic curiosity about
and his young charge's status.
She was stable and her eye dressings were no longer
wet with new oozing plasma under the older dried blood stains
covering her eyes. His own B/P
was in the hundred range
palpated but all the cuts on his bare chest and shoulders and
above his jeans and on his face had clotted up well.
As an afterthought, Gage grabbed a new D5W |
bag to replace Megan's limp one along with
atropine syringe package for himself in case
his toxic gas pulmonary edema flared into crisis again.
"Ready to go, princess?" he asked her when he was
"And how. People out
there are probably wondering
where we are."
::I'm counting on it.:: Johnny thought to himself
he hefted Megan's light weight onto his good hip.
He grabbed a fire extinguisher from
a wall compartment
on his way out of the surgical supply room after
deciding he'd keep the route
ahead hazard free with
it as a backup.
"What's that for?" Megan asked when she recognized
the familiar ching of metal nozzle on metal cylinder.
Gage said. "Ever heard of an insurance
Well, this is a non paper kind. Hang on to me tight.
We're headed out." Johnny felt Megan
clench his hair
painfully as he moved down the fitfully lit hallway and
back into a faint bank
of bitter sweet smelling smoke.
"You're forgetting the Santa Anas are in full swing.
wrap any fire higher than a skyscraper if
the wind's strong enough. There may be hot spots
where we're going."
An orange glow at the end of the corridor showed Johnny
of the glass elevator. The doors separating its
shaft from the maintenance corridor had been ripped
and the nightmare vision of the burning plane and
surrounding neighborhood gaped through
like a surrealistic
hellish painting that made a lump knot deep in his throat.
let the relaxed but mute Megan know that his
eyes and heart were already crying. ::All of them, dead?::
he thought in thinly veiled despair and shock. He could
tell by the color of the smoke columns
that more than
metal and wood burned in the magnesium fires that marked
a sickening outline where
the plane had embedded its
length into the parking lot concrete and across the yards of at
six homes that he could see in the distance from his
vantage point from the fourth floor of Rampart.
The scene was hugely bloated with chaotic ruin that
hungrily swallowed all signs of the rescue
work that was
ongoing, for there wasn't even the slightest sound of radio
barks nor the faintest
flash of red lights from fire engines
carrying up to where Gage and Megan slumped
in the passageway.
A hot wind whipped a vile stench up the shattered shell of the
glass tube that once housed
the glass viewing elevator panes.
Rungs of metal where the broken sheets of tempered glass
once hung, were completely intact. "Those are
still climbable!" Johnny said, looking down, tracing
route his eyes picked out through the darkness and
firelight flickers. "We can rappel down."
"But we're so high up.." Megan wailed.
Gage shouted, seeing hospital figures below running
in the hastily converted outdoor cafeteria just below him.
"Hey! Up here!" But no one
looked up towards the upper
floors at all and the roar of fire and water covered the sound.
Then Johnny spotted a familiar shape sniffing and searching |
through the rubble and papers littering
the grass. "Boot!
Hiya boy!.. Up here! We need help!"
But the shaggy, weary dog didn't hear
Desperate, Johnny said, "Megan, gimme more of
your coloring pens. Quick."
girl unzipped her fanny pack and gave him the
last of them. The green ones. "Here." she sobbed
sudden fear, understanding the tactic at once.
One by one, Johnny launched pens into the air,
trying to hit the ground near Boot. Several
bounced off the torn, tipped over umbrellas out of
the dog's sensory range.
But the very last green pen finally clattered right
Boot's front paws. The stressed dog
startled at the impact but immediately afterwards,
started working earnestly until he located
the thrown missile as it rolled under a canted over
Boot whined when he recognized Johnny's scent
mixed with blood on the pen.
"Atta boy! It's us.. Good boy.." Gage grinned.
"Get a good whiff. Yeah, that's me and
I'm in trouble."
Johnny could just barely see Boot begin a
tracking circle around the bustling
moaning patients crowding the triage area in
a concerted search for his whereabouts.
His pacing was headed away from the ravaged
side of the hospital.
"No, no.. we're up
here, Boot!" and he waved
sharply, leaning over the edge of the windy precipice
inside of the
elevator shaft. "Come on.. Use that
mug of yours. And those ears...!" He brought
a bloody hand
up to his lips and he whistled fiercely.
Boot's head jerked at the sound that only he could
hear over the crash site's din and his head lifted,
trying to pinpoint the source of echo of the
call that he knew.
Gage whistled again and he saw Boot's black
nose twitch in
a rush of wind that swept down
the side of Rampart's shattered face from
where Megan and he huddled
fire and sun glowing building.
Then the two of them connected eyes.
saw but didn't hear Boot begin to bark and
fuss in earnest in sudden frantic activity. "Atta boy.
Go get help! Yeah, we're up here boy. Gonna need
a way down. Go, boy. Go! Get some help. Yeah,
I got a victim with me and I know how much you can't
stand not being able to reach one."
With a last emotionally torn howl, Boot arrowed off to the west,
shooting around doctors' legs and
casualties in search of some true fire people from an
engine crew who would
do more than just kick him
away in irritation.
"Go.. Boot.. get Cap or.. anybody.. That's the way.." he |
gasped, sinking down to crouch on the edge
of the cold
concrete above the elevator track, cradling a mentally shocked
Megan against his
shoulder. He laid the child on the floor onto
her left side and covered her with a stack of plastic
an abandoned mop cart to help keep her warm in the smoke
breezy hallway. Deftly, he
hung her IV on a door jam above
her. "Megan, stay put. I gotta rig a line of some kind for us
Gage crawled over to the far wall and yanked open the
emergency fire hose panel and
peeled its long but empty
canvas'ed length away from its hanging hooks.
Absently, his trembling
hands began to fashion a safety harness
using the fire hose; a tandem one big enough to hold both
Megan and himself. "If they're not here in ten minutes, we're
getting down ourselves. Can't wait
long for treatment.
Neither one of us. That O2 we shared off the tank was
just a stop gag measure.
This new smoke's gonna effect us
being still caught up this high if we don't get underneath
worst of it real soon."
When Johnny was through with his constructing, he tied
the male end
of the hose to the big red water nozzle wheel
coming from the stout red painted pipe inside the panel
He quickly secured a firm hauling hitch.
Then, he gently awoke Megan, murmuring
"Set to go? It's ok. I won't let you fall. I do these
kinds of things all the time
in all kinds of places and I've
never dropped anyone from a high place without a reason."
scoffed, making a face. "What's a good reason?"
"Uh,... When we had to use a life net." he said
His answer didn't alarm her in the slightest.
"Why don't you get
one of those now, Mr. Gage?"
Johnny's hesitation was a long one. But truth won out.
no one knows yet that we're even up here.
"Boot who?" Megan coughed weakily.
"Our station's dog. He's a sort of mascot who's
our pet,.. er.. well, ..he's actually a stray
up on occasion right when we need him."
Gage felt his young
charge begin to shiver as
he tied the final hose loop around both himself and her.
He eyed the
hazardous way down the side
of the building inside the shattered, dangerous
glass elevator shaft.
The car itself was at the bottom,
unused, parked and forgotten in a safety measure.
"I sure hope
so. I gave him strong enough hints
about where we were thanks to your bunch
of coloring pens.
I tossed them down practically
on Boot's head."
"I'm gonna miss them." Megan sighed, suddenly
sleepy. "Especially my green ones. And
my brother and my d--" her voice trailed off.
was alarmed, quickly. "Hey,..Megan?
Can you hear me? " he asked her, leaning close and
the waning strength of the pulse at her carotid. "Now
don't go out on me here. I need you to--"
off when he felt the girl go limp despite of his
shouting and pain rubs.
closer check proved the child still breathed but it
was shallow and fast because of the increasingly
acrid air swirling around them. Gage half considered
retreating back to the surgical store room
his mind, thinking suddenly of Boot. ::He's gonna need
something to go point onto
when he gets back with some
half convinced doubting firefighter. It's gonna be a needle
haystack for him to find someone I know who'll believe
him that there's trouble involving me, so
I gotta make
it as easy for him as possible to prove... by staying
visible..:: he thought.
Johnny snagged Megan's IV free from the door hook
and turned its port wide open, tucking the bag
inside of her fanny pack which still hung above the
level of her loosely dangling
arm. He tested her
consciousness level and found it at an even lower
glasgow rating of three.
"Oh, no you don't."
Gage fished the oral airway he had saved in
his back pocket that Megan
had needed earlier
and reinserted it over her tongue carefully.
"You're gonna keep moving air."
A minute later, he was breathing hard with the effort of |
easing himself and Megan over the side of
the window ledge and into the shattered frame
of the elevator shaft. He scrambled his way
into the clearer air at the third story, and
then a bit farther down to the fullest extent and
of his jury rigged hose and there, they hung
unseen by the overtaxed hospital workers milling
underneath their feet. "Boot ... I sure hope you
got the message. There's no turning back for us."
he eyed the fourth floor where he had just left as another
thick bank of smoke and fuel fumes
doorway they had exited. "I don't think I can get
back up there if my life depended
To Johnny's dismay, a huge choking smoke cloud swirled
down Rampart's flank to meet
them and completely covered
them up from view from any potential spotters on
Gage felt himself getting fuzzy once again
as the hot brightening dawn wind around them
grew too poisoned to breathe.
From: Katherine Bird <email@example.com>
Sat Mar 13, 2004 8:11 pm
Subject: Mascot Mayhem..
Mike Stoker's radio sprang to life with
animated voice. ##10-9 last transmission?!##
came at least three lieutenants who were
shotgun as battalion relay backups.
Static and warbles spat from both the 51 firefighters'
but nothing else that was legible got through as
command voice after command voice walked on
other trying to be the first to deal with Chet
and Stoker's emergency.
The warbles became
an unmistakable tangle.
Mike clicked his talk button in a test but nothing
happened at all when
the wind suddenly
changed, shifting the debris and plane parts piled
up on top of the fire truck.
"D*mn. We're in a blackout area?! Must be because
the engine repeater's been damaged.." Stoker
guessed. He quickly cased the ground for danger
as he picked his way over fallout to reach the
Crown where he saw her.
Chet pushed his helmet up in frustration on his head
and he ripped
off his air mask to shout to anyone
from the luckless station who might be lying hurt and
in the immediate area. "Hey!.. All in ten's!
Yell if you can hear me, man.. We see your engine!!"
he gasped, accepting Mike's hand to haul him over
a section of plane skin in between two small
Only the sound of fire and scorching wind hissed by
their ears. The lack of human
spurred Kelly and Stoker into an even more frantic
search for 10's possible fallen.
Kelly resealed his SCBA mask over his lips but it didn't
conceal the anger on his face while
on his HT's band fell apart when just about every firefighter
at the crash
site crowded onto the channel, demanding
more information about the Unit Down call.
Finally, L.A. broke through with a tones squelch, silencing|
the clamouring talkers crowding the line.
##All units, radio
silence... All units, radio silence.. Battalion 12, go ahead.
and HT 51's has been put on a signal boosted
protected band.. Go..##
Numbly, Kelly clutched
the fireman's turnout he still had in
his hands and he mumbled.. "This is Bob's.." he said,
gloves twitching shakily over the grime and blood on the
jacket. Soot smeared Bellingham's name. "That
got it away from him somehow...." he whispered in shock.
"Oh Stoker, I'm afraid this
is gonna be the thing that freaks
out the walking rule book.. Brice is gonna sh-"
Chet. I'm on.."
Mike Stoker's voice held no hint of the fear that was
sweeping across his face.
His baritone stayed firm
and controlled as he spoke rapidly. "Battalion 12. Engine
Ten is clearly
impact crush damaged. We are located at
the nose cone end of the airliner. There was a looter with
one of ten's turnouts and that's how we found the pumper.
Also sir, as yet, there's no sign of
the jacket's ...uh,...owner
or the other firefighters.."
##Scene safety?## came the deep stonorous
the assistant chief who was Battalion 14's right hand.
"Minor mag fires, live lines
down 18 meters south. There's
a lot of fuel fumes over here blowing downwind of the tail
Air bottles are going to be critical for those moving
in." Kelly added.
putting your situation on priority. Inform
me the second you find anybody. I have Squad 51 and
"10-4.." Mike replied, flinging aside the cumbersome HT
onto a multilated
Samsonite luggage case. He fire hooked
tangles of framework away from Engine Ten's back grill,
only part they could see.
Kelly shouted.. "Hold it! Hold it Hold it!! Power line!" he
Stoker froze, while Kelly threw Bellingham's
jacket over the sparking electrical cable Mike had
"O.K., it can't writhe free now. Go ahead!"
Stoker got to the engine and climbed into the first
he saw, shouting as he went as loud as he could. "Hey!
Can anybody hear me?! It's 51's!!"
Kelly quickly joined him in the dark space Stoker
had jammed himself into. Finally, he reached
back window and he rubbed it clean with a sleeve, crushing
his nose against the spidered
glass so that he could peer
inside.. "She's empty!!" he said joyfully. "They either got
they weren't here when the plane hit..." he sighed
through his sweaty mask.. "My G*d. Battalion 14
out of his mind about this, Stoker. No one put two and two
together that the jet crashed
where he told 10's to station
"Who could have?" Mike grunted as he pushed himself
out the way he had come carefully retracing their route off
the roof of the devastated Crown.
"There's over twenty
County and City units here... It's nobody's fault. Just really
"I know.. I know.. " Kelly said, accepting Mike's soggy glove
for balance as he, too,
got down off the engine to resume
their victim search. "But my head hurts anyway. And there's
poker jammed through my chest that's nothing physical,
about all this."
"Me, too...*gasp* Just
keep looking.." Mike said. "They
gotta be around here somewhere.."
"Who says? They're probably
scouting the houses like we
were doing earlier." Kelly said, finding something to ease
contained fear for their fellow station mates.
"But how do you explain Bellingham being out of
his turnout?" Stoker frowned grimly. "He might be
one who's still around here somewhere.."
Chet and Stoker finally stumbled to the front of |
the buried engine, their eyes confirming that no
firefighters lay as casualties near the big truck.
"Man,.. I wish we could have rung it out of that
neck about where he found the jacket.. Bob would
never take it off if he was healthy.."
"It could have caught fire..." Stoker theorized. "You know
how insidious magnesium burns are. Or he
used it to cover a live victim to stave off shock but
then forgot about it when the stokes
"Always nice and positive, Stoker. That's what I like
about you. But my instincts are screaming,
man. Don't you feel yours? Something's wrong. And it's
about one of us..." Kelly insisted, pale and small in
his fire gear, as they began once more, their
scene search pattern's hunt for anything human in
the debris piles. "I just can't shake
Mike Stoker didn't say anything. He froze a minute
later when he spotted something
embedded in the
twisted heart of the violated Crown pumper. Chet
followed line of sight down Mike's
arm.. "I don't
"Yeah? Well, call it in and don't touch it. The feddies
nail our *sses if we disturb anything near it."
Stoker grunted. "F*ck, why do we find this and not
Chet was impressed with Mike's usually hidden trucker
mouth as he lifted
the HT to his faceplate. "L.A. and
Battalion 12. No sign yet but we have located the
Looks like Engine Ten's hood was the
##Copy that.## Battalion 12 answered. ##Check
A sterner, foreign voice took over the line. "HT 51.
while you're in there. Our people are
intercepting you now for its recovery.."
climbed into his hairline.
"You were speaking of the Feds?" Chet said sarcastically.
they speedy.." he growled. "I hope they all
step on a power l--"
"Chet, they're our tax dollars,
hard at work.." Stoker
teased, trying to lighten the increasing knot of dread
that he was experiencing
as Chet's non-ignorable bad
feeling took root in his stomach. "It behooves us to
let them... officiate.."
he articulated for lack of a better
"Why don't they concentrate on developing better
airport transportation vehicle protocols or something else
that's useful, huh? Hindsight investigation
little to help the folks we're seeing smeared all over the
county. I'm almost half
tempted to hook that power line we just
found onto the red box just to fry it so the truth about
human/plane maintenance shortcomings will never hit
the media! You heard how those
compensators were straining
when she flew over our heads. The victims' relatives deserve better
a sterile statement of apology six months from now from
the FAA, you know.." Unconsciously, his
eyes fell on a
very familiar place inside of Engine Ten.
Mike Stoker took Kelly's trembling arm and led|
him away from the cab seat that was the twin of
one Kelly usually took when on a call on Engine 51.
He noticed that it had been shredded by myriads
shards the length of his arm, some of which were still
impaling the leather sickeningly.
::That could have been
us, in E 51..:: he realized. ::Someone's watching out
for somebody today,
that's for sure.:: he thpught and
he crossed himself, as Roy would've done. "Come on,..
try and go back to where we intercepted that teenager.
Won't be hard to find his footsteps in all
this soot and blood
to trace a trail back to where the jacket might have come
from. If Bob's
still in trouble, chances are better that
he'll be closer to there than here.. agreed?"
nodded tightly, fighting his emotions as he
let Mike lead the way. "Glad at least one of us is
"Let's go.." Mike said gently.
As they passed back by the engine, Stoker paused
only long enough to spray paint her side with the bright
symbol for no bodies found for the other
workers, who were
bound to come there anyway they could, just to ease
their own minds about her
current status and situation.
The two of them all but ran back to the depressing
where they had found the looter.
It took them four minutes to find Bob Bellingham's
stretched out in a puddle of fuel face down,
eight meters from where they had corralled the teen
the severed hose.
Chet and Mike carefully rolled him over onto his back
and Chet dug into Bob's
shirt for a carotid. "Still
got one." he grinned. "Looks like his air mask kept
him from drowning
in the stuff."
Bob groaned when Mike placed his gloves under his
head to keep his spine still
and straight. "Well, that
explains a few things. He's got a goose egg the size
of a grapefruit
"That lousy fink!" Chet exploded, turning his masked
face towards the neighborhood
where the rebel teen
had long since departed. "What kind of kid would
mug a firefighter just to
get some gear to put on to
go body gawk?"
"A thrill seeker from a broken home?" Stoker ventured.
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