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 No Sooner Said
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The Story Unfolds...

Season Five, Episode Thirty Four.

 No Sooner Said...

Debut Launch: June 1st, 2006.

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From: "crash200225" <crash200225@yahoo.com>
Date: Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:38 am
Subject: Not One Word

Paramedics Roy DeSoto and John Gage were heading back to the station
from Rampart after their first and only run of the shift. They had
been toned out at 1100 hours for a sick child. Arriving at the
scene, they had found a two year old boy with a very high fever and his
nearly hysterical mother.

"Man, I hope the little fella is going to be all right." Johnny sighed.

"Me, too." replied Roy. "When Chris was that age, we had to make a
few trips to the hospital for high fevers. Mostly in the middle of
the night. The fevers usually broke within a few hours after
treatment, and he was back to his normal self the next day."

"So, what do you think is wrong with Chet today?" Gage wondered.

"Huh?" Roy knew he should be used to his partner's sudden changes in
subjects, but he was still amazed at how fast he could shift gears.

"Chet, you know, bushy hair, mustache, pain in the..."

"What about him?"

"He hasn't said one word all shift, Roy. Not one word."

"Did you ever think he might not have anything to say?" Roy knew it
was an absurd question as soon as it left his mouth.

"Chet Kelly? Having nothing to say?" Johnny snorted. "And
he hasn't bugged me yet either. What's he up to?"



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It dawned on Roy that the station HAD been unusually quiet all
morning. He wondered briefly if Chet was coming down with
something. The name 'Chet Kelly' and the words 'nothing to say' were
like oil and water. They didn't mix.

Johnny snapped his fingers and announced, "I got it. He's trying to
bug me by NOT bugging me."

"John, I need to tell you something." Roy stated with the most
serious voice he could muster.

Concern etched Johnny's face as he turned to his partner. Roy always
called him 'Johnny', 'partner', or even 'Junior', but never John.

"I'm scared." muttered Roy.

Surprised by the words, Johnny stuttered. "What... What's wrong?"

"What you just said... made sense to me. I think I'm beginning to
understand your logic."

"Haha, Roy. First Chet isn't talking and now you're the joker. Why
I put up with..."

Roy smiled and tuned Johnny out. Just as he backed the squad into
the bay while Johnny used the radio to announce that the squad was
back in quarters, the tones sounded. Roy idled the motor while they
waited for the dispatcher's voice to come over the speaker.

##Station 51....##

*************************************************
From: "mkmg365" <mkmg365@yahoo.com>
Date: Fri Jun 16, 2006 9:23 am
Subject: No Sooner Said

In Johnny's recollection, yesterday had started out as completely
normal between him and Chet. And that had been way before he had
felt the need to even tell Roy about it.

Johnny thought back to eight am the previous day...,
remembering how it had all begun.

-------------------------------------------------------

Roy and Johnny had been changing in the locker room when
Chet walked in.

"Yeah, and she says..," Johnny said to his partner.

"Don't tell me. Let me guess.." replied Chet, interrupting.

All of a sudden the tones began to sound...

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From: Roxy Dee <laterrapincabesa@yahoo.com>
Date: Sat Jun 17, 2006 8:32 pm
Subject: Canyon Run~~

##Engine 51, Squad 51, Engine 8. Man trapped. A half mile south
of Red Rock Canyon. A half mile south of Red Rock Canyon. Cross
street, Scenic Drive. Time out : 0824.##

Cap told dispatch that his crew was responding to the call. With Roy and
Johnny in the squad, Marco, Cap, Chet and Mike in the engine, they were
off. At the end of the driveway, they flipped on their lights and sirens which
cleared the road of traffic.

Their drive took them away from the city and into the rural mountainous
area of northeastern Los Angeles County.

Station 51 arrived at the scene ten minutes later to see, among the tall pines
and spruce, a dirt road with broken road block bunkers cast all around. Men in
hard hats were down in a ditch full of rhododendron and sumac surrounding
a tipped over bulldozer.

Cap jumped out of the cab and a foreman ran up to him. He began to tell him
what had happened.

"It's Charley. The cat we were using to knock over those trees lost its brakes
and shot down into the canyon, out of control. It crashed into a tree before
Charley could leap off and it fell on him. A couple of guys tried to free him
but it's no use." ansed the foreman.

"Just leave that to us and clear your men out of there. I don't want anybody
else to get hurt." said Hank.

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The foreman got his crew out of the canyon just as Engine 8 arrived. Captain
Stone came over to Cap who filled him in.

Hank was thoughtful. He turned to Chet. "How about climbing down the cliff to
see how badly he's trapped, Kelly?"

Chet nodded and went down, spilling dirt in a rain as he slid down the slope.
He got to the bull dozer. Chet saw Charley lying in a furrow made by the cat.
The heavy machine's roofing section was solidly fallen on top of his legs.

"Charley?!" Chet yelled from where he could see the injured man in between
a tangle of trees. He couldn't get closer because of snapped tree limbs
and thick underbrush. There was no reply or any signs of movement from
the man. "Charley!!" he shouted louder.

Chet got no answer. Kelly walked around the debris to the other side of the
bulldozer. He saw a thin stream of gas seeping down the slope. "Hey, Cap!"
he yelled up the slope.

"Yeah?" Stanley shouted back, shielding his eyes under his helmet to block
out the worst of the rising sun's glare.

"He's unconscious and it looks like both his legs are pinned under the
cab's roofing!"reported Chet.

"Can it be cut with a power saw?" Stanley asked.

"It's possible, but you better hurry. There's gas leaking all over." Kelly
replied.

At that, Cap sent Johnny and Roy down the loosely bound slope, using
rappelling ropes to aid them. "I'll send the stokes down with your gear
as soon as you're ready for it." he told them.

"Ok.." grunted Gage as he helped Roy rope bounce over a cat tumbled
pine tree.

Mike Stoker and a few of Captain Stone's men soon followed the two paramedics
down with the portable saw and they started cutting on the bars of the caterpillar's
roof under a protective wash of hose spray. They decided not to wait for a foam
truck before setting to work.

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Thick corded lifelines tied off from both fire engines kept the cat from shifting
any from its precarious angle perched on top of the man. The last thing they
wanted was its bottom heavy chassis re-rolling back down and crushing
Charley and his rescuers to death.

Cap and Marco got the stokes out of the engine and tied guidelines to the front
and back of the stretcher. They slid it down over the side of the road
with the most critical boxes of medical equipment attached, the I.V.s, splints
and the oxygen resuscitator. Stone's men were fast at cutting away the
branches separating all the firemen from their victim and soon, Roy and
Johnny were able to get over to the stilled man.

"Charley... Can you hear me?" asked Roy as he knelt, pulled off a glove
and felt for a carotid. He looked up at Gage. "He's alive." He shouted
the man's name once again, loudly so that it could be heard over the
buzz of the saw's spinning blade.

He got a low moan for an answer following a sternal rub. "Easy. I'm with the
fire department and we're gonna get you out of here in a minute, so hang
on as best as you can, ok?"

He got another moan from the bloodied man lying on his side in the dirt.
But the noises he made weren't intelligible words.

Johnny started Charley on a fast flow of O2 through a plastic mask after
making sure he was able to breathe well enough without being helped.

Roy crawled under the roof and slid into a hole Charley's coworkers
had apparently tried to dig out around him. He grunted when he landed
on his face at the bottom. "Ouch!"

"Roy, you ok?" Johnny demanded immediately, half rising from
where he was cutting away Charley's clothing in a search for other
signs of injuries.

"I'm...ok.. Just in a pocket.." DeSoto answered. "Startled me, that's
all."

"You sure?"

"Yeah..."

Johnny listened for a few seconds to his partner's repositioning
scuffling. Finally, he was convinced Roy was ok. "So far, his chest's
clear.  His trauma looks like it's all below the waist level, Roy. I got
no rib fractures or any obvious gross bleeding past a large lac on his
forehead."

Roy grunted assent and checked Charley's branch bent legs with his own
shears and hands carefully. He found a compound fracture on the right one
and a bad cut on the left just above the knee. He got a fireman applying
direct pressure over the second wound as soon as he found it. Then he backed
out of the hole and waggled some fingers for one of the splints another fireman
was holding strap ready for him. DeSoto asked Stoker. "How much
longer? He's bleeding out badly from an arterial tear."

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Mike answered. "About two more minutes... Three, tops. And most of
that time we'll just be moving tree branches out of your way."

Roy nodded and grabbed for the biophone.

Johnny noticed that Charley was now blinking in a semblance of wakefulness.
The oxygen had done its work. Gage saw that Charley's bruised and dirty
hands seemed to be weakily guarding his stomach so he pressed on it
in a check. The man winced and brushed Gage's fingers away quickly.

"A little bit tender, isn't it?" Johnny asked, reaching again to see how
far the rigidity extended away from the sore spot.

Charley nodded when he found he couldn't talk easily.

"Anywhere else past your lower right side?" Johnny asked.

Charley shook his head.

A groan of rope lifted metal rewarded all of their ears. The cat's roof
swung away under many gloved hands and spun off of the construction
worker and the sparking saw de-powered down immediately.

Charley screamed in pain at the sudden release of weight and he sagged.


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Johnny regained a clear airway on him with a jaw thrust and waited for
the heavyset man to recover from his near faint. "Ok, gimme his collar.
We board him up first before we move him out of here." he told the others
around him.

A few tense minutes went by as all struggled to immobilize the cat driver
as safely as they could without jarring his fractured legs.

"Ok, he's free!" said Stoker. "Ready to pull him out?"

"Yeah.." said Roy, looking up from his vital signs notes. He glanced over
at Gage. "Johnny, I can't get any reception down here. His I.V.'s gonna
have to wait until we get him to the top."

"He's doing fine on my end. Still semi-conscious." Johnny agreed.
"I no longer have to hold his head."

DeSoto redirected his attention back to their patient. "Charley,..We're going
to pull you out and it's gonna hurt. Try not to help us, ok? It'll only aggravate
your injuries further."

Charley waved a grimy hand in understanding. Two men moved to either
side of the man and they lifted the longboard up slightly so that hand shovels
could dig out a boulder blocking their way. Charley screamed in pain.

Roy and Johnny held onto his shoulders "You're almost out, Charley."
said Johnny. Roy brought the man's stokes near and he was nestled
inside of it with the oxygen tank sandwiched in at the foot end. They
strapped him securely.

Then Stoker hollered up to Cap to take up the slack.
"Cap.. Good to go.."

Once on the road, Johnny and Roy took off their gloves and helmets
and got to work.

Roy opened the biophone and contacted Rampart while his partner got
out the BP cuff and took Charley's next blood pressure. "Rampart, this
is County 51, how do you read?"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dixie McCall looked up as the buzzer sounded over the base station
door. She went inside the glass room and toggled a switch. "Unit calling
in, please repeat." she specified as she turned on the rescue tape recorder.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Rampart this is Rescue 5-1." grunted Roy, catching his breath back
after the climb.

##Go ahead, 51.## said Dixie.

"Rampart, we have a male approximately 42 to 45 years of age.
He's been a victim of a vehicular accident involving a construction
caterpillar in a rollover. He's sustained multiple injuries resulting from it :
a compound fracture of the right femur with an arterial popliteal tear on the
left that's also a probable non-angulated fracture. Direct pressure
seems to be working for that. I would say that he's lost about a 1000 cc's
of blood all total. There's tenderness and some rigidity to his lower
right quadrant. We suspect some internal hemorrhaging there. He also
has a cut over his left eye without signs of obvious skull fracture. However,
he remains somewhat stuperous and diaphoretic even on high flow O2. He's
exhibiting early moderate signs of shock. Stand by for the current vital signs.
Rampart, he has been successfully extricated from a limb entrapment." DeSoto
reported.

##Standing by, 51.## said McCall.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dixie rapped on the window and Dr. Brackett looked up from the slate he
was reading as he was walking by the ER's main desk. He set his chart
aside and immediately joined her inside the callroom.

"What have you got?" he asked her.

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"Caterpillar driver in a roll over. Mechanism sounds worse than what's
really apparent to the medics." she told him.

Kel read what she had down for notes. "51, this is Dr. Brackett. Have you
obtained your new vitals signs yet?"

##That's affirmative, Rampart.## Gage answered, taking the phone from Roy
while DeSoto reached for the drug box. ##Vitals signs are : BP is 90/50, pulse
is rapid and weak at 116, respirations are regular and only slightly labored
at 20. He's responsive to verbal commands.##

Brackett looked up in worry as he said. "Dixie, set up Treatment Four.
He might be bleeding pretty fast into that stomach of his. We may need
to open him up right here in the ER to stop it."

"Right, Kel." she said and she left the room.

The wavy haired doctor thumbed the talk button. "51, start an I.V. of Lactated
Ringers, wide open. Also draw blood for a type and cross. Is your ambulance
at the scene yet?"

##That's affirmative, doc. It's just arrived.## Gage told him over the airwaves.

"What's your ETA?"

##Our ETA's approximately twelve minutes. Pulse's still very
regular and palpable down to the wrist.##

"What's the scope showing?"

##Normal NSR, Rampart. Do you want us to send in a strip?##

"Negative, 51. Get him in here as soon as possible without delay. Send me one
only if problems develop on him rhythm wise. Continue monitoring his vital signs
closely, every five minutes, and maintain a high level of perfusion for those
fractured legs. Hyperventilate him if you have to, to keep both feet viable."

##10-4, Rampart.## said Johnny.  He hung up his connection while Roy quickly
got an antecubital intravenous line in on a fast flow. An ambulance attendant
pulled the stretcher next to the two paramedics while other fireman kept up
the elevation on Charley's leg end of the stokes and his I.V. bag. Gage soon
took that and snugged it under Charley's shoulder to keep it pushing fluids
while they wheeled him to the waiting rig.

"I'll ride in with him." Roy announced as he set the medical gear inside
the Mayfair next to Charley.

"Ok, meet you there.." Johnny said picking up both their helmets and glove
pairs to throw into the squad's open window.

Cap shut the ambulance doors and rapped on them. The boxy rig took off
with the squad right behind it. Hank watched them go and then he said to dispatch
on his walkie talkie. "L.A. Engine 51. My company and Engine 8 are out one hour for
brush detail to wash down spilled gasoline from a rolled over construction
caterpillar at the bottom of a ravine."

##Engine 51.##

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------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
At the hospital, the ambulance slowed and drove under the skyway. It
backed up to the emergency doors and the attendants got out.

Johnny pulled the squad up next to their patient's transport and quickly
went to assist them with moving Charley inside. He took and held up the
nearly empty I.V. while they fast-walked the man inside. Passing
off the test tubes full of blood to Dixie took only a few seconds.

Brackett met them in the hall and said. "In here."

Johnny handed off the I.V. bag to one of the attendants just before
the door closed between them.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He and Roy went to the receptionist's desk to await Dixie's return
from the lab.

"Coffee?" DeSoto offered to his partner.

"No thanks." Gage sighed, rubbing his face in fatigue. "Isn't lunch
waiting for us back at the station?"

"Today it's not. The engine's still in that canyon if you recall."

"Oh, that's right.." Gage said, disappointed. "Well, that's ok. We can
always stop off at a hamburger stand somewhere on the way back."

"What do you mean, we? I'm not hungry yet. I don't wanna drive
anywhere extra this morning. I've a feeling it's gonna be one of those
shifts again." Roy complained.

"Fine. I'll drive then. Gimme the keys.." said Gage, not turning
around from where he was sipping his coffee while helping himself
to the medical supplies they needed to replenish. He held out
gimme fingers impatiently.

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"Try not to scratch our new paint job. Charlie the mechanic will have a bird
if we damage the squad before what he considers a decent interval's
passed." DeSoto replied, handing over the cluster of keys on
a bungee coil.

Gage ignored him. "Think he's gonna make it?" Johnny asked Roy
as he threw a head towards Treatment Four.

"Yeah. His pressure went back up. Even before surgery. I guess he
was just emotionally shocky like we figured. I know I wouldn't like
kissing the dirt so intimately while knowing five tons of machinery
was about to roll back down the hill on top of me." Roy quipped.

It was a few minutes later when Dixie rejoined them.

Smiling, they pro-offered her a cup of Folders before she could
offer them an empty wash bowl complete with a green bottle of
Phisoderm with which to scrub their dirty faces clean.

"Beaten at my own hospitality game, eh?" she joked.

Roy replied cheekily.....

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From :  Cory Anda <andacory@hotmail.com>
Sent :  Monday, June 19, 2006 2:14 AM
Subject :  The Hidden Danger..

"We learned from the best.." chuckled Roy.

Johnny grinned, too. "You were a good teacher
in the paramedic program. Your mother hen instincts
must have ...rubbed off on us pretty bad... I wasn't even
aware I was under your past carefully sowed influence,
until you mentioned it to us just now, Dix.." Gage laughed.

"Now, fellas,.." Dixie demurred. "...everyone knows that
flattery works ninety five percent of the time it's used
in practice...except when you're a male with the last name
of Gage trying to pick up a date at a single's bar." She
crooked a half smile.

"Very funny.." Johnny said sarcastically.

Roy grinned even bigger. "Yes. It was.."

Dixie smiled right back. "I consider myself buttered up.
What's the real story here? What else can I do for...such a nice pair
of ..., hard working young men such as yourselves today?" she
teased, pouring on fake flirtation by the pound.

Johnny sighed and came out with it. "When are the paramedic
refresher tests coming out this month? Brice told us they were
coming last fire call.." he admitted with a pained expression,
his word coming out in a rush like a bad hiccup.

"Johnny..You know I can't give out classified information like
that without getting into a lot of trouble. Kel would have my
hide if I told you, personally and professionally." Dixie
scoffed mildly. "Roy, I'm ashamed of you for letting him even
try to wring it out of me."

"I'm the very picture of innocence today, Dix." said DeSoto.
"Since when has Johnny ever done anything that wasn't
his own idea to pursue in the first place? No, wait a minute.
Don't answer that.." he said, rubbing his forehead in discomforture.

"Thanks a lot.." Johnny piped up, insulted. "Look, we'd better
get going before I drop down to the floor in a hypoglycemic attack.
Wouldn't you know?..I'm starving--..."

"..again..." said Roy.
  "..again.." finished Johnny at the same time.

McCall laughed. "Why don't you eat here in the cafeteria? That food's
closer..."

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"You call that food?" Johnny made a face. "I can eat it when I have to.
Only the burgers,..heh. But today, I need some real nourishment. Roy
thinks we're gonna have a busy day of---"

"Don't say it!" Roy interrupted.

"...runs.." Johnny finished matter of factly.

The walkie talkie immediately began to speak in a response.
##L.A., Squad 51, are you available?##

Roy lifted up his radio. "Squad 51, 10-4, L.A.." he said.

##10-4.. Stand by for a response with Engine 51...##

Roy, Dixie and Johnny all froze into listening poses.
Gage's eyes opened in interest despite his growling stomach.

**BEEP....BEEP....BEEP..**

##Station 51, Battalion One. Minor excavation fire.
At the Sandstone Mining Company's secondary shaft. Two miles south
of West Ridge Pass. Two miles south of West Ridge Pass. Cross street:
Pacific Coast Highway. Time out : 10:02.##

Roy nodded, fumbling with the box of supplies and their EKG monitor,
until Johnny rescued him by taking the HT out of his hand to
acknowledge the call for him.

"Squad 51. Responding from Rampart General.." Gage told dispatch.

##Squad 51.##

"Gotta go, Dix.." Johnny said to her with a short, friendly wave.

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"Here.." she said, pulling out a candy bar from her smock's pocket.

Johnny barely caught the Mounds Almond bar when it sailed
through the air in his direction. "Oh,.. thanks but I don't like---"

"Just shut up and thank the lady already.." Roy elbowed him. "If you
won't eat that, I will.." he mumbled in irritation through the side of his
lips.

"Thank you, Dixie. Saved my life.." Johnny fired back dutifully
as they turned away from her for the ambulance entrance.

"Good boy." Roy retorted. "And I'm driving. You're too shaky to."

Gage's next acid comment was drowned out by the sound of
Captain Stanley's voice replying back to L.A. from their location
on the road. ##Engine 51. 10-4, L.A. Our ETA is eight minutes.##

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A thin stream of smoke billowed out of a horizontal mining tunnel opening,
staining the placid ridge's sun soaked landscape with a rusty purple
soot cloud. There were no obvious signs of open flames raging from
down below.

Sirens mingled then tore apart from the rush of the Santa Barbara traffic
growing louder as the engine and squad met up and flew around tight
gravel road hairpin turns to get to the scene. Clouds of dust rose when
the two red, light flashing vehicles screeched to a halt.

Captain Stanley stepped off the running board, meeting his two paramedics
alongside the squad. "Gage, DeSoto,.. L.A. informed me that the new fire
here was detected by radar plane. The pilot reports that no miners are
around now and none have been in the shafts today. This might be that old
subterranean coal fire smouldering up again under the soil. So let's put
it out and then check for any workers who might've snuck into their primary
shaft down the road in an attempt to rack up some unofficial overtime."

"Right.." John said, buttoning up his overcoat. Roy was already putting on
his gloves.

Cap faced his other men. "Marco, Stoker,..Get an inch and a half played out.
Kelly, you're going down to see if you can scout out the source." he said,
glancing and sniffing carefully at the mossy hole. The smoke had already
abated somewhat so he added. "Don't think we'll need an air bottle just yet
for this one, Chet. It's a fairly cut and dry ground fire as far as I can tell.
Probably just a dust flare up with no kindling."

"Ok, Cap. I'll be careful. I'll radio in every minute." Kelly told him.

"You do that. Go get a torch, lifebelt and a rappeling rope. The shaft
lift's not in service today. There're no workers." Hank said as he
stepped back into the Ward's cab to give his status report to Battalion.

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The others moved away to their fire duties.

Stanley scraped off some mud from his shoe absently as he watched
them set up. The clump of clay fell and landed heavily onto the ground and
a dust eddy wafted up from the impact and drifted under the engine's
tires. The swirl moved on and passed a freshly dead body of a jack
rabbit partially hidden in the grassy rut running along the middle of the road.

Nearby, a bird faltered in flight, recovered, then faltered again only
to tumble end over end in a crash to the ground. It landed in a fluttering heap
and soon became still.

No one noticed the absence of animal sounds or the sudden silence falling
around them for the engine's radio was still filling the air with situation
chatter and firefighting conversations.

Cap waited for a gap in vocal traffic. "L.A., Station 51 is out forty five minutes.
Our incident appears to be a resurgence of the perpetual underground fire
Five Beta already noted by Headquarters on the "to monitor" list. All
company shafts appear to be completely uneffected...There's no damage
to property."

##10-4, 51. I'm standing down. Keep me posted.## replied Battalion One
from his car's frequency.

"Will do, Battalion.." said Hank in reply. He sighed and pushed down his
walkie talkie radio, looking up. "Mike, go ahead and charge up that hose
just to be on the safe side while Johnny and Roy man Chet's lifeline. We'll
give him just a quick down then up and then we're out of here after a fast
ground heat survey update on that old fire."

"Ok..Cap." said Stoker, jogging off to the tall red and white painted
water valve clearly marked by the circuit breaker building.

A few minutes later, Mike turned off the hose and peered into the steaming
darkness of the ventilation hole, satisfied that every flame had been extinguished.
All of the guys stood around the new shaft, talking about the peculiarity of the
blaze. "It shouldn't have lasted down there this long, Cap." Kelly said, belting up.
"Why wasn't all the oxygen used up in the first few minutes after it broke into the
shaft from the substrate enough to put itself out?"

"Random breezes..?" guessed Gage. "There is a storm front in the mountains.
See?" he said, pointing to the Sierra Nevadas on the horizon.


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"And rainwater moving down the overflow might account for better ventilation.."
Stanley concluded.

"Bingo.." Chet grinned, tightening his helmet while Roy checked his belt's
buckle and the rope hitched in a double loop attached to it. "Yeah, well, the
sooner I get down there to see if it'll stay out this time, the sooner we can
all get back to the station to fix up some serious chow. Are you as hungry as I am,
Gage?"

"You have to ask?" Johnny groaned miserably.

"Eat.." Roy said, shoving the candy bar that Johnny had left on the dash of
the squad at him.

"Oooo, thanks.." said Kelly, snatching it from Roy's gloves. He quickly stole
one of the candy bar halves and then tossed the last one up into the air so Johnny
had to catch it fast before it hit the dirt. He munched happily. "Thanks for the
work reward ahead of time, pal. That was nice of ya.." he chuckled.

Gage scowled. "Hey, that was mine.."

"Was.." said Chet, disappearing into the hole, his rappelling equipment
jingling as he climbed over the lip and started heading down in the direction
of his flashlight's beam. "And it was real yummy, too. Remember.. you
snooze, you lose.."

Johnny had to quickly pop the candy into his mouth before Chet's descending
tension fell onto the rope he was holding for safekeeping in between his knees.

Kelly continued downward cautiously. "Cap, the air's still fresh down here, and
it's not hot in the slightest."

"Ok, pal.." said Stanley.

Gravel skittered and echoed up the slantwise shaft. Then there was a particularly
loud slide past the usual, followed by a sharp thud. Suddenly, Chet's rope whipped
taut, nearly dragging everyone manning it off of their feet. Marco was driven to his
knees, balancing on the edge in a strain to support Kelly's fallen weight. He grunted,
and saw a flash of silver as Kelly's light tumbled away and down. "Canisters?"
he grunted. "Cap, something not right down there. I thought this tunnel was supposed
to be zoned for air venting only, not storage."

Cap fell onto the rope with the others. "Chet?! You all right?! Chet ?!!"

The rope creaked back and forth in the empty black space yawning
in front of their noses.

"He's in trouble." Cap swallowed tightly. "Let's get him out of there. Fast."

Painstakingly, hand over hand, the gang retrieved inches back. Finally Marco
grabbed Chet's belt at the waist and together, the five of them hauled him out
onto the grass. He was limp and his eyes were closed slits. Lopez gasped.
"What the h*ll happened? He was barely down there for twenty five seconds."

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On a sudden impulse, Roy knelt, placing an ungloved hand onto Chet's stomach
over his turnout where he lay. "He's barely breathing, guys."

Johnny shot him a crazed look. "What?!" And he got on Chet's head instantly
to monitor his pulse.

"Holy---" Hank exclaimed while Stoker and Marco sprinted to the squad to get
the gear and the oxygen.

Roy checked Kelly's eyes quickly. "I don't understand this. Did something hit him
on the head to knock him out?"

Johnny quickly ran fingers through Chet's hair, feeling for wetness. "No..there's
nothing. Plenty of dust but no injuries here. Or anywhere else that I can see.
Are you finding anything?" Gage asked incredulously with alarm, thoroughly
stunned.

"No. Let's get him to the road into com range." said Roy.

The three firemen gathered Chet's unconscious form into their arms after
they pulled off the safety belt and hastily loosened Kelly's jacket collar.

They carried him in anatomical alignment on his back, without jarring
Kelly's neck or spine.

Cap was beside himself with anxiety. "What-..what's wrong with him guys?
Think he slipped or something? The smoke wasn't thick enough to turn or
be even the slightest bit bad. I checked. "

"We don't know, Cap. It's... I... something's not right with him that's for sure.."
Roy stammered.

The gang set Chet onto the ground while Roy took over guarding his airway.

Johnny froze in his check for broken bones, listening suddenly as he
peered at Chet's paling face. "He's stopped breathing." It was Gage's
turn to shake his head in denial. He turned a valve on the resuscitator
and started Chet on forced, oxygenated ventilations. Mike soon knelt and
took over the job while Roy carefully reassessed Chet's pulse.

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Cap fairly flew to the engine. Marco followed. Lopez held onto the door,
biting his lip while Cap got a hold of L.A. "L.A., this is Engine 51. We've
a man down at our location. Send an ambulance and--" He stopped.
Marco was shaking his head, apparently dizzy. "Marco, you ok?"

Marco blinked and took a breath. "Yeah.. uh...yeah."

Cap studied him closely. "Ok.." he retoggled the switch on the cab
mic. "..And a full mining survey team. We've got an odd occurrence
of respiratory collapse following exposure to old coal smoke. Advise
all units coming in to wear their air masks."

##10-4. ETA on your ambulance is ten minutes.## Right away, another
Klaxon sounded over the radio, assigning a Ground Fire Hazmat team
to 51's incident.

Hank tossed down the mic. "We're getting out of here. Marco, get your
air bottle on. We'll help the others get into theirs. I messed up somewhere.
And I've messed up big.."

Lopez was already hefting his scba apparatus onto his sweating back.
But he was having trouble. Cap pulled it on for him and got him into his
mask. "So it's gas fumes?! Coming from where? G*d d*mn it! " Stanley
snatched up four air bottles, one for each man awake, and himself.

"I saw...saw cyl-- cylinders, Cap. Silver ones. Down the hole.."
Marco coughed through his faceplate.

"Go help the others.. I'm getting mine on. Tell them--" Cap took a
hesitant step forward, with his burden, and then went down as if
poleaxed.

Numb, his senses reeling, Marco yelled aloud. "Cap?!" He bent over
and nearly tripped over Hank's legs. He started to pick up his HT to
turn it on to call out a warning for Johnny and Roy, when
dizziness gripped him, too.

Lopez fell.

For a moment, Marco thought he managed to get out his jacket
halligan for a wild swing at the side of the Ward to sound a warning
signal, but then the rising blackness cast him deep into a soundless void.

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----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Did you hear something?" Roy asked the others who were working to
hook up Chet to the EKG monitor.

Johnny looked up from the short airway and ambu he had begun using
on Kelly. "Me? No. All I hear is Chet expiring O2 after we put it into him."
he replied in a rush.

Stoker was too occupied with manning a BP cuff with a stethoscope to
notice the question.

Gage felt a resistance to a generous bag squeeze. He removed the face
mask. Kelly coughed out a chest full of oxygen and then some
shallow but regular breaths began spontaneously through his new
semi-conscious state. Johnny blurted out. "That did it."

Mike grinned when he saw some finger twitches. "120 over 74." he reported
to Roy and Johnny. Then he got out a non-rebreather mask set to
maximum literflow and turned on the suction unit in case it was needed.
He slipped the clear mask over Chet's face with a light grip, his face
still full of strained concern."Rate's about thirty, guys." he said, studying
Kelly's chest movement. "If you don't need me anymore, I'll go check on
that ambulance. Cap and Marco went back to the engine to call for one
three minutes ago."

"We're ok now. Go on ahead." said Johnny, shivering, as he opened
up the biophone case. ::That's odd. It's not even cold outside.:: he thought.

Stoker jogged around a bush towards the mining road.

Gage reached for the phone as another chill gripped him. He stopped
and let it pass before setting up the transmission aerial. ::Funny. There
it is again. Oh, no.. Could this be a hostile gas working on me?:: he wondered.
In mid thought, a spasm doubled Johnny over and he made himself
look at his partner, who had gripped his arm in a reflex.

Roy was staring at him, too, half reaching for his own throat, a horrified
expression on his face. He stood up, stumbling, trying to reach for
an air bottle near them on the ground, when he fell like a stone.

Johnny saw details only muzzily as a numbing paralysis gripped his
arms and legs, and constricted his lungs. It tumbled him onto his left side.

"Gas..." he groaned, hearing the live handy talkie chatter on
obliviously in his turnout's pocket. He tried to reach for the biophone
to knock the receiver free into an open channel, but it was too far
away from his hands in the dust. Desperately, he launched out a foot
and dimly, he felt his shoe hit something heavy.

Gage blacked out.

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--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mike Stoker glanced across the ravine to the mining company's
entrance gates. There was no sign of a transport yet.

Sighing, he started back the way he had come. Absently, he kicked a stone
and it bounced off at a right angle and came to rest close to the gaping mouth
of a dead robin.

Stoker jumped. He hadn't noticed any dead birds before on the way to
scope out for the ambulance. He nudged it with a toe. "Oh, sh*t."
He immediately stifled any deep breaths and he started shouting on
the tail of his last one. "Cap?! We got gas in the area! Everybody!
Emergency! Get into your scba now..!"

A twinge of pain quickly silenced him and he was forced to blow out
the rest of his breath forcefully. His eyes fell on the carcasses of a
rabbit and another bird. Both were dead, like the robin had been.

Thoroughly unnerved, he took a calculated risk and started running
back for the rest of the gang. He rounded a corner and saw....

Things were blurring.. Spinning... Mike blinked and shook his head.
He let out a shout of dismay. Johnny and Roy were crumpled
at Chet's side and both weren't moving. And under the engine,
Stoker could see two pairs of sprawled arms and legs.

Going blind with suffocation, the engineer crawled towards Roy
after failing in his attempt to strap on his own activated air mask
from a tank near DeSoto's hand. Nausea pitched Mike onto his
stomach and on top of Chet. His last thought was that he was
glad Kelly was still alive and breathing.....

Silence filled the gulley as the firemen gasped, threw up, then
lay still.

Then the serious minutes began to tick by.
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