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         Page Two

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From: "rwein5" <>
Date: Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:34 am
Subject: Remembering the Call    

The clouds had moved in quickly and with little fanfare.  Gusts of
wind and lighting took turns dancing across the Los Angeles' south
bay area, leaving little evidence of their presence.  However, the
flash of a lightning strike danced too close to the tanker
unloading gasoline at one of the berths.  As the first spark ignited,
a series of explosions rocked the harbor and the calls began.

A muscle spasm shook his whole body as the lightning flashed again
deep in his dream.  A small moan escaped his dry lips and suddenly
his eyes opened to reveal the fear and dread that surrounded his
entire consciousness.  The reality of the bright and stark hospital
treatment room reminded him of his ongoing despair over their
assignment at the harbor.

"Hey, Hank, back with us?"  Dixie moved closer to the injured man
and began taking his pulse by gently holding his wrist.


"You're okay, Hank.  You're at Rampart and we're getting ready to send
you to the OR.  Looks like you've some internal bleeding and we need
to get it repaired." she explained.

"News. . . ?  Anything yet?"  he struggled to make himself clear but
the words and energy were too hard to find.

"Now you need to concentrate on just you.  You know that everyone's
working hard to find them."  She didn't want to say much more
knowing how much he was already struggling.

"I shouldn't . . shouldn't of let them go back in . . . Too many tanks .. I
should've waited . . " Hank tried to get his words out and fumbled
over the attempts.  Tears of frustration began to build up again and
he clenched his fists.  "My decision . . " he whispered.

Dixie adjusted his IV tubing and turned as Joe re-entered the
treatment room with X-rays.

"Joe, he's coming around again."

Joe moved over to Hank's side and gently gripped the man's
shoulder.  "We're going to take you up in a minute and get this
bleeding stopped.  You're going to feel better soon.  Also, the ribs
look like clean breaks." he explained to Hank.

Hank looked back at Joe and merely nodded.  "Not okay . . . "

Joe patted Hank one last time and began preparations for moving him
upstairs.  The injured captain surrendered to the latest dose of
sedatives, his mind ebbing away from the dark reality of gas explosions,
lost men during the search and rescue, wrong decisions, and lightning.

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From :  patti keiper <>
Sent :  Friday, July 21, 2006 4:47 PM
Subject :  Twisted

It was thirty minutes later, and Johnny was still waiting
for the axe to fall from Headquarters in the form of a grizzled
man in Battalion helmet white.

He knew that it would only be a matter of time before the radio
transmissions recorded on scene at the site of the blast would
be reviewed and enacted upon, and dealt with in a harsh critique
that was directly face to face with the known infractor.
::Oh, Cap. I'm really trying hard not to think about that.:: he worried
deep in his tired thoughts. :: I know all those kids were screaming.
I heard em, too. And probably, for once, your instincts as a father
overrode the ones you usually always carefully listen to as a fire

The federal building's front facade had been completely shorn away
by the pier's landbound tanker explosion. Nine stories now
yawned the gaping maw of a crater, filled with jumbles of
concrete debris, infrastructure piping,...and bodies.

It had been very clear from the onset that civilian fatalities were
involved. ::The concrete... I can still see the blood between cracks.::
Johnny's memory moaned. He shivered again, draining yet another
cup of pot forgotten, scalded Folders. He shot to his feet out of
the chair where they all were inside the chapel, and a few feet's
distance away from a softly praying Joanne.

"Still thinking about them?" she asked him quietly after a long,
self conscious interval, heavy with powerful emotions.

Gage didn't meet her eyes, and instead they found the flickering
flames of candles, dimly lit on the altar before them. "How can I not
think about them? All that blood we saw on the fallen wall means that
somebody just has to be on the other side. But d*mn it.." he sobbed.
"We're dealing with eight to ten inches of concrete for each slab. And I
can't help but think to myself,.. how are we ever gonna get through it?"

Joanne's eyes filled with sympathy instantly and she took Gage's
dirty hands into her own.

Gage snatched them away and rubbed his nose in a loud, stressed snuffle
of pain. "See? You can't get through it fast. You have to remove it. And yeah,
they're all doing it, piece by piece. But d*mn it all to h*ll, Joanne, it's not
going fast enough for me." he said through a very tight throat.

Johnny Gage still vividly remembered how frustrating it was for him to
crawl through the rubble, trying to get to the shoe on Cap's twitching right
foot, the only limb that had shown signs of any life inside the violently
force collapsed day care center. ::I can still see the way he
was... It's how the others might be,.. if they're still alive.:: he agonized
mercilessly in his head.

Johnny curled into a stiff, seated ball on the hospital pew, not accepting
any tactile comfort from Joanne, who was seated beside him.

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Then a form in surgical blue broke them both out of everything in an instant.

Mrs. DeSoto and Gage shot to their feet and joined the newly arrived

"Chet's off the nasal P.E.E.P., and out of danger." said Dr. Morton,
his voice mild and highly conscious of soothing subtlety. "His pulmonary
insult's rapidly resolving. And yes, Roy's just as stable as he is.
It's looking more and more under the knife, scope and films, that DeSoto's
just moderately carotid contused, if still a little raw internally. Rotund
bradycardia has made an appearance. But it's been very reactive to
only minimal doses of atropine. Not jarring him around much and his earlier
cautious I.V. volume delivery probably accounts for his lack of serious
complications now."

"That was Brice again and his usual brilliant outcome of care. " Johnny
said sarcastically. "Can't say I was there to help contribute much of
anything for him. All I did was vacuum my neck stretched partner
out a little and eyeball an EKG strip or two."

Morton chose to overlook Johnny's remark.

"Doctor...And Hank? How's he doing?" Joanne asked timidly, very
uncomfortable with Johnny's harsh, self defeating, spiralling bent.

Mike Morton sighed, pulling off his surgical cap.
"Kel and Joe found a small bowel tear on him in a lower quadrant. But it's
clearly without fecal contamination. The fact that he was immobilized so
fast in the field's probably what's gonna spare him the onset of any
form of invasive peritonitis. The most he'll probably have is a bad
case of cramping gas later after his digestive tract decides to kick
back on."

A page overhead, calling Morton to Emergency, sounded.

"Excuse me. That's probably another victim coming in. I've
got to go. Hey, you two. Things are ok. Roy and Hank'll be hitting
recovery before you know it, all right?" Mike smiled.

Joanne and Johnny both nodded, still absorbing the news.

Then the sweat stained, disaster cowed resident was gone.

And that was the signal for Johnny's restlessness to instantly return.

Gage crushed his empty coffee cup and tossed it into a nearby
trash receptacle noisily, startling a few family members huddled
in prayer behind them as the sound shattered the peace of
the non-denominational chapel. They began to whisper in
understanding and they smiled encouragingly at the agitated
paramedic, knowing without a doubt that he was also someone
who was...waiting.

For some reason, their unspoken, mute compassion irritated him
on a deep level. "I'm leaving the hospital. . Right now." Gage
hissed, moving for the sanctuary's door.

Joanne swiftly intercepted him.
"You can't do that. Cap's in surgery.. So's Roy.
Now just what kind of friend are you if you won't be there, at their
sides, when they both finally wake up and look to you to help them
while they ask for clarity to release them from their own personal kinds
of 'What happened?' h*ll?"

"Why not? I'll tell you why not..  Because it doesn't look like there's
any fire department official here who's got the guts enough to stop me."

Desperate and hurting beyond comfortable tolerance, Johnny
finally flagged down a taxi cab to take him back to his rescue
squad's location at the edge of the green zone.

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Click the lightning for a music change.

There was dust, thick and choking, in the blackness.

Distant drips of falling water echoed through myriads of deeply
buried tiny niches in the rubble underneath the government building's

Marco Lopez came to, moaning as he spat bitter plaster from
his mouth and throat. In the next instant, he hit the off button on his pass
device's distress beacon, silencing it.  Pain shot through his arms and
head with the movement and consciousness wavered.

Fright took over. Eye blind, Lopez felt around him for the size of
the space in which he was trapped. ::More air space. I'm gonna need
that.:: Then he remembered that he was not alone. He began shouting
for his engine crew and two squadmates.  

His hand smacked into a helmet lying near his concrete pinned left side.
It wasn't his own. That one was still fastened securely to his head.
He felt the inside of its band for its engraved indent tag. "S...T...O..
K..." he whispered.. "Stoker?!" he shouted, feeling around desperately
for another warm body lying near his. "Are you here? Answer me!"

He found a pool of still warm blood next to his ear. In horror, Marco
wiped off most of the stickness coating his fingers onto his turnout jacket.
::Why didn't I smell that?:: asked his mind. It answered bluntly.
::Because you've got a concussion.. or worse. You were
unconscious a minute ago..::  Lopez closed his eyes and concentrated
on his body and what it was feeling. Pain and senses slowly began returning
as panicked breathing and the realization of where he truly was hit home.

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A rising stench of bowel matter and urine stung his nose then and he was
aware of the soiled mess's cold dampness as it made his pants cling around
his legs. ::I must have been out a while. Long enough to sh*t on mysel-...::

A snoring gasp choked above him, startled Marco out of his thoughts.
"Stoker?!" And instantly, he knew that Mike was very near. Again, straining,
Lopez reached and blindly probed the cramped space surrounding him.

He found a head of hair, and when his hands disturbed the dirty mat,
he smelled the familiar scents of Old Spice and Johnson to Johnson's shampoo.
"It's you..Come on, pal." Marco gasped, feeling around for the direction Mike's face
lay in the crush of dust and glass. He found Stoker's nose and mouth facing the
floor. Digging, Marco freed up a hole around them and he listened for another
effort for continued breathing. "Hey,..take another breath in. Move a little!"
he begged.

Getting angry in his fear, Marco pinched Mike's face, in between two fingers. Hard.

A huge answering gasping inhalation rewarded him as Marco pulled himself
out from under a fallen pipe to cradle Mike in his arms. There was barely
room to lift his head and he cut himself on something sharp when he held up
Mike's head so he could easily reach air. A thudding, rapid neck pulse greeted
Lopez's eager fingers.

"OhhHHHh.. *gasp*...cough. cough cough...." Mike choked,
spitting out drool and dirt. Then came a rasping whisper
of a question. "Marco? Is that you?"

"Yeah. It's me, pal. Hold still until you're more awake."

Mike didn't reply, falling into the same self survey of his body that Lopez had
done on himself a minute ago. Stoker just gasped and lay still where he was,
trying to read his throbbing injuries by concentrating on them, one by one.

"Are you better now?"
Lopez waited for Mike's answer as both men breathed in and out until their
initial oxygen debt was completely gone.

"I'm...ok.." Then he paused. "Who's bleeding?" he asked as his hand splashed
into the same gory puddle Marco had discovered by his face.

"That's not mine or yours." he said tightly. Then he changed the subject.
"Were you near anybody when--"

"Yeah.. I was running towards a bunch of kids. Five, I think, when the explosion
came. Was that the tanker?"

"One of them..." Lopez grunted as he fought to move a hand down to his
pocket for his HT. He doubted that it was in working condition. For it hadn't
issued a single sound out of his pocket. "Where's your radio? Mine's..

"I had it out in my hand...*ugh* but it's gone." Stoker said. "Must've lost my
grip on it when these floors came down on top of us." he gasped.

"What hurts?" Marco asked him, still groggy with shock. "Me? It's my head
mostly.. And...I've got a piece of glass sticking out of my lower leg."

"Is it bad?" Stoker coughed.

"Not yet. Must be acting as a tourniquet inside. I'm not even bleeding that
much from there. How about you?"

"Same with my head. Pain.. I've got one h*ll of a lump." Stoker sighed,
as he ran his hands up and down wherever he could reach on his body.
"My left foot's numb but I'm not trapped. You?"

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"I'm free." Marco gasped. "Let's see if we can start finding our way outta

"Wait a minute.. Let me wrap up that shard in your leg first to immobilize it.
Don't want you to sever an artery or worse." Stoker said, setting a hand
on Marco's neck to check the pulse rate there.

"ok..ok..ok....." Lopez sighed, resting his head on the ground as he
submitted to Mike's light status exam."Oh, man. Cap's probably beside
himself with worry about our sorry *sses, eh?"

"That probably isn't even the half of it." Stoker chuckled, but then Marco
could almost see the seriousness fall over his coworker's face. "Was
it a bad call on his part? We did hear kids nearby."

"Mute point. Let's just concentrate on getting rescued. I, for one, wanna
see a little daylight here, real soon." Marco said, flipping painfully over
onto his right side as he gingerly felt the slant of the broken slab tenting
over them. Mike soon bound his leg and the glass shard with
strips from his overcoat that he had knife cut free, using Marco's helmet
as cupping protection over it.

"I'm with you there. Let's go.. I think the harbor's that way.." and Stoker
began crawling into the mouth of what he knew was an impossible maze
of tangled spaces and twisted debris that had once made up a building.

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From: "rwein5" <>
Date: Tue Jul 25, 2006 4:35 pm
Subject: Clarity

The walls were white, the ceiling tiles were white, and the sheets
were white...and even the window blinds were, too. He slowly lifted
his eyes to the brown door to his room, trying to decide why its color
wasn't white like everything else.

The fogginess of waking up after his surgery had faded since he
was in the recovery room. Earlier, when he had fallen back asleep,
it was obvious that this white room would be his new home for a few
days. He cringed as he felt a dull pain shoot across his mid-
section. Clenching the crisp white sheets, he allowed for the pain
spasm to ease before opening his eyes. And again, he stared at
the door.

"Okay, Hank, they're gonna be here soon. What are ya gonna do
about it?" he whispered to the door. His headache had been
reduced to another dull throb and he tried to sort out the many
images that circulated in his mind. He recalled most of the details
from the harbor rescue including his decisions. And he knew that
based on the aftermath of the fire operation, he was in for some

"Why did ya do it, Hank?" he asked himself, settling into the
pillow. He continued to mumble knowing that only the door and the
walls were his captive audience for the moment.

"Why? I am the Captain and my crew is my responsibility." he said
quietly and with conviction.

"But, I also have the primary responsibility to the victims." he
paused. "Children . . ." he whispered, remembering the cries.

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Cap cleared his throat and closed his tired eyes again. This time,
it was all black, no white walls staring at him during his monologue.

"The safety of everyone is my prerogative; my crew, the victims. My
decision. My authority. . . " he continued with closed eyes. He
willed away the taunting images of explosions and blood and in a
deep voice full of emotion, "I'm not supposed to look out for myself
here, only the people under my command, and for the people who
need rescuing. My prerogative....R-right?" he sighed quietly.

The brown door opened and Hank opened his eyes.

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Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 09:10:11 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Cassidy Meyers" <>  
Subject:  There is a Balm...

Unbidden, the heart rate on Hank's monitor sped up
and set off his tach alarm as two shadowy figures entered
the room, shattering the quiet with chiming attention tones.

It was Dixie and Dr. Brackett.

"Sorry, Hank." said Kel, moving to the bedside to feel the
pulse in Cap's wrist as he eyed the EKG's screen in a check.
"Didn't mean to startle you. Next time, we'll knock before coming
in." he said, smiling. "You'll be happy to know that your abdominal
repair job was a piece of cake. There'll be no complications. We
found only a small bowel perforation and some kidney bruising.
Nothing that a week of bedrest and another month of serious down
time won't cure."

::Wanna bet?:: Hank thought mentally, ..miserable.

Cap's face must have betrayed his true state of emotion, for Dixie
set a soothing hand on his shoulder while she checked the flow of
I.V. fluids and antibiotics moving through the pump.

Nurse McCall was as equally relaxed as the doctor, and she made sure
that fact was not lost on Cap. "When Kel says you're fine, he means it. "
she blinked. "How are you feeling?"

"You mean, besides feeling like a pound of hamburger run through
the meat grinder? I suppose I should be feeling lucky, all things considering."
said Stanley. "But I can't say that I feel much of anything except for
these staples right now." he lied.

"Easily fixed." said Dr. Brackett, turning up the auto dose of meperidine
on the I.V. pump. "There..How about now? I've set this for 1mg every
half hour. Should do the trick now that your general anesthetic's fully
worn off."

Cap closed his eyes in relief and just nodded, swallowing hard around
his n.g. tube that was drawing out red tinged fluid and the contents of his
stomach which he knew was the only thing holding any nausea at bay.
He didn't feel much like talking anymore, even to himself. All he wanted to
do was give in to his medications. ::I want to deny reality for a while.:: he
thought. ::No man should face all that horror happening out there when
he's not able to stand on his own two feet. It's not fair. I wanna know what's
going on. Every gory detail...Not knowing's cutting me to shreds and ribbons
faster than Brackett and the other doctors can patch me up. Go on, coward.
Ask the next question.. Come on, Hank. Say it.:: he sighed privately.
Finally, his dry lips opened despite his fear. "Any news, guys?"

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Kel's eyebrows went up as if he hadn't expected that question so soon.
He finished getting a set of breath sounds over Cap's chest and he pulled
the stethoscope out of his ears while he spoke. "You already know about
Chet and Roy. They're stable, with only moderate injuries. As for the
rest of your men, we h--"

There was a knock at the door which interrupted them. The raps
were soft, and respectful.

Dixie turned to let that person in. "Ah,..that's the chaplain."

"Chaplain?!" Cap said, rising higher onto his pillow.

Dixie was no nonsense. "The FIRE chaplain. He called us and said he
was coming of his own accord a few minutes ago. Now just settle down
Mr. Stanley, or you'll aggravate your catheters. Both of them." she warned.

Cap grumbled into silence, only then noticing the false feeling of urgency  
sitting in his bladder that was being caused by an inflated foley balloon.
"Fine. Ok.. Fine.." he gushed in irritation, fiddling with the gown underneath
the sheets so it wouldn't tug on the tube that was draining him of liquid waste.

"You'll find there's a shunt coming out of your incision, too. That's only
precautionary to speed up the healing process." said Brackett.  

"Anything else medical I should know about?" Cap tried to grin for their benefit.

"That's it." said Dixie, marking down Cap's current I/O on his bedside chart
as she strode for the door. "Can I let him in now?"

"I guess I really don't have a choice here now, do I?" Cap snapped as he
scratched the n.g. tape stuck around his nose, gingerly. Then he amended
immediately, regretting his reflex sharpness."Could- could you stay with us
a moment? I'm sorry. I....I'm not myself."

"Sure.." smiled Dixie and she opened the door.

Fire Chaplain Father Mychal Judge was still in his sooty turnout. "Hank.
Had to come." said a strong faced, small boned, but tall fireman. "I figured
you wouldn't mind." he said, studying Stanley's reactions as they flitted across
his face. "I had a few minutes. And I wanted to tell you things myself."

All the animation on Cap's face disappeared as the moment he
had been dreading came. Shockingly, he found himself rendered mute.

Mychal's lined face actually smiled. "Hank, they're alive. We can hear Stoker
and Lopez shouting from underneath a piling on the lower level. They say
there are three others alive with them. One of them is a child."

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Please refresh page to restore original music track. :)

Hank's eyes filled. "That's.. that's good news." he choked gratefully.

"You bet your ever blessed, bruised butt it is. The best kind of news that I
always go out of my way to deliver to people." said the mild mannered chaplain.
"That's definitely one of the reasons why I'm here at your bedside." said Father

"And what's the second reason, Mychal?" said Hank, as he shook in relief,
finally accepting a sip of water that Dixie held out for him to drink through
a straw.

"I want to get you to stop snowballing the blame the surgical staff says
you're heaping a mile high on yourself so you can get some decent rest."
said Judge no nonsense. He immediately checked Cap's weak glare at Dixie.
"Now, now, she's not responsible. It was no one you know who told. Just a...
civilian nearby who mentioned you. She overheard some of your delirium
while you were wheeling by her mother's room on your way to surgery.
A real compassionate soul if I do say so myself to take time to think of a
total stranger first in spite of her own stress and troubles." Judge rumbled

A strange, vague feeling of forboding filled Cap as he settled down deeper
into the pillows Brackett had arranged for him. "Father, stay safe out
there, ok? Watch your back and keep your helmet on."

Mychal Judge's eyes sparkled with a powerful faith, and he chuckled.
"There isn't a place I won't go if it's to save a soul, Hank. You know that.
I'll go anywhere He tells me to without hesitation. It's a little like what you
did today to try and save those children. In my reckoning, you did what was
right by you, instead of what everyone else expected you to do, as right by the
job. And that was a real tough egg to crack given the few seconds in which
you had to make the call. I know, for I was watching the whole thing AND
listening in over the radio. I'll vouch for you personally during the upcoming
Skelly hearing. So don't worry about yourself anymore and I'll have none
of those panged qualms for me. When it comes my time to go, I'm sure it'll
be the right time in His eyes. I know it won't be today, Hank."

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Cap nodded sleepily in affirmation, still oddly disturbed by
the faint impression he was getting while looking at the holyman. When he
closed his eyes, he could see firemen all around a mortally limp Judge,
bearing him from an incomprehensibly large place of death and dust, in a
battered chair. The mental image was fuzzy and faint, but it was nothing like
a dream. ::More like a premonition?:: Cap shivered. ::I hope not.::

It was then Judge took on his official visit duties. He began to speak.
"He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two....
They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. From Mark 6:7-13.
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and
have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord."
Mychal said, signing a cross over Hank's bed. "And their prayer offered
in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well; and anyone who
has committed sins will be forgiven. Amen. From James 5: 14-15."

Cap's sore, tense muscles began to ease as the intravenous pain killer
reached the last places still throbbing in his body.   Hank found that he
had been soothed at last by Judge's gentle voice and words.

"Well, I'd better be getting back to the boys still doubting themselves out
there. I'll stop by and see you later, Hank." said the fire chaplain with a
friendly wave.  

Cap never remembered waving farewell in reply.

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From: Patti or Jeff or Cassidy <>
Date: Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:33 pm
Subject: Progress..

Gage wiped away the sweat and grit that was still stinging
his eyes as he hailed Rampart once again. "Rampart, Squad 51.
Our patient's now intubated with equal breath sounds on both sides."

##10-4, Squad 51. Keep ventilating him. Prepare to re-introduce another
paralytic to keep him controllable. Switch from the succinylcholine to
0.1 mg/kg of Vercuronium I.V. push. Follow up with 3 mg/kg thiopental  
every five minutes if he wakes up at any time while still paralyzed so
there won't be any chance of him panicking on you.## said Dr. Early.

"10-4, Rampart. 0.1 of Vercuronium and 3 of thiopental P.R.N. every
five minutes." sighed Gage. Inwardly, he was happy that they were
being allowed to treat all the witnessed nonbreathers located around
the hot zone. Hazardous materials, beyond the burning oil spilled
from the exploded tanker store drum, simply weren't being found.

::I'd give anything to be one of the paramedics assigned to Stoker
and Marco's location.:: he thought as he loaded up his man onto a
scoop stretcher for the transfer out to the safe green zone. Johnny
took advantage of a fireman new to the paramedic program to make
his move.

"Hey! Yeah, you! Take over bagging this man. Here are his care notes. He's
Dr. Early's patient so talk with him while you take him in." Gage disassembled.

The younger man bought it, still used to following more experienced
paramedics' orders. ::The kid must have had one hell of a preceptor to still be
that malleable.:: he celebrated as he made good his escape from another
ride-in. ::Not quite against the rules here. This guy's my same care level,
a paramedic, so I'm not, technically, abandoning my patient.::

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A piercing hand blown horse whistle broke through the sounds of the heavy
machinery being used to clear away paths leading into the worst of the
rubble pile.

Johnny looked up, donning another pair of clean, rubber gloves.
"Brice? Where are you?!" Gage hollered into his HT as he
watched the scenes of chaos as other paramedics treated the wounded
on the pebble strewn parking lot's pavement. Rescue workers
continued their battle to dig out those still trapped in the rubble.

##Ground level. North. To your eleven o'clock. I'm waving an orange
safety vest.. See me now? Get over here with everything you've got.
We've a woman Marco dug out and he's not that far below her position.
She's going sour.##

A few minutes later, Johnny was at his side, wearing nitrile gloves.

Craig looked up at him and snatched away the trauma kit and I.V. box even
before Johnny finished stumbling over debris to get to him. "Did that probie
medic prove gullible enough for you? I kinda gave him hints to listen
to those medics who've more department years under their belts than him."
Brice said, matter of factly.

"I thought that was kinda easy. You devil, you.." Gage smiled, still dusty.

"Not devilish, Gage. I thought my behavior was colored more on the side of
an angelic attempt to solve a problem." Brice corrected him.

"Same thing." Johnny said, unhelmeting and sticking his head and body into
the hole the other firefighters had marked as being the one Marco and Stoker
were trapped inside of.  He quickly got his hands on the woman's head
and neck for a vitals check.

"Not exactly." Craig preambled.

"Well... Ok, same result, then. Are you satisfied?" Johnny exasperated
from his upside down position in the hole.

"No. But you are and that was my whole point in setting up that patient switch
loophole scheme. How's she doing?" Brice asked.

Gage grunted. Only his ankles jutted up from the hole, being firmly held onto,
by two burly L.A. city firemen. "Still checking.. Uh,...Gimme some clothes shears!"
came his muffled voice.

The search dog who had discovered the two trapped firemen and their victims,
was growing more and more excited as time went on. His handler did nothing to
stop his antics. Everyone was more than glad to hear an overjoyed search dog
instead of listening to a depressed one on a death point.

Brice made sure he scrubbed the dog's ears as he climbed by to get better
access to the hole yawning between the two giant concrete slabs angled
underneath him. "Good boy. Yes, you are.. Here, Gage. Catch..." he said,
tossing the scissors down into the darkness. "Not you, boy." he warned
the dog. "Go play with your reward ball. Go on, get.." he teased.

"Thanks for these." Gage said. "Give me a minute more and I'll have
her info for ya."

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Brice hung a connected biophone receiver over his shoulder while he
prepared five Lactated Ringers I.V.s in rapid order for their future use
for the worse of the trauma victims down below.

Gage's voice soon came back. "She's semi-conscious but she's extremely
diaphoretic. I'm seeing signs of a basal skull fracture with possible nerve
damage behind both eyes; her pupils are unequal despite good verbal
responses. She's got a broken nose, possible face and jaw fractures,
and Marco says she's got six missing teeth. She's also guarding
her ....left upper quadrant. Feels like it's getting rigid."  

"Ruptured spleen?" asked Craig loudly so Johnny could hear him.

"As far as I can tell. Yeah. Very likely. And two broken legs. Simple tibs on both
of them, *grunt* ..uhh,.. right above the ankles."

"Here's the first of the O2. Two more tanks are on the way from the engine.."
reported Craig.

Gage accepted the rope lowered oxygen supply. Immediately, Lopez took
that task over and got some flowing amply for the critically wounded woman.
"See, ma'am. Just like I told ya. The paramedics are here." said Lopez, biting
his lip as he slid his injured leg to one side away from Gage's view.

"Don't try to hide that leg on me, Marco. Don't you know I can't be fooled medically?
Truth now, did you rip open an artery on what I'm seeing impaled in your calf? If so,
you're gonna be the second one outta here."

"I don't think I did. Stoker and I bound it up pretty well when we first started crawling.
It's just plenty sore now."

"Sore as in how?"

"It feels like a dull, stabbing throb."

"That kind of pain's good when it comes to feeling things in the legs." Gage
told him."Can you wriggle that foot?"


"Good. Now hold that whole leg still until we get to you." Gage told Marco.

Lopez started sobbing. "'s Roy, Chet, and Cap? We...Stoker
and I...saw them all disappear in a cloud of debris."

"They're all fine. They're probably out of surgery already and resting
comfortably. Now stay quiet. I'm tryin' to work here."

The woman was soon collared and carefully placed in a stokes that had been
sent down from above. She began talking nervously, entering a lucid period.

"Ma'am, can you talk to me?" Gage asked her.

She did, but the woman couldn't focus her eyes on his face.
"I could see clear blue sky pockets throughout all the floors in the building
after it happened. I realized then, what I was looking at. The six floors
above me had blown up into the air and fell back down again. I...don't
know how I came to find myself lying on a ledge above a chasm of rubble.
I think the other floors fell on all the staff members who were in the meeting
room with me. Are my friends ok?" asked Florence Rogers. "Have you seen

Johnny raised his eyebrows at Marco but Lopez immediately shook his head.

Johnny didn't miss the hint and he deflected her attention. "Miss Rogers, take
a deep breath in, I'm gonna listen to your lungs to see how they're doing. Are
you having difficulty breathing at all?" he said, opening her shirt a bit at the
torn neck even as he pulled the material from around her pant's waistline so he
could get his stethoscope's drum underneath and over skin in all the right

"Just...a little. More because it's so here." she replied.

"Breathe in three times. Slow and deep."

She did so, losing concentration suddenly on the third breath when she forgot
what she was just doing.

"Ok..Marco, bump up her oxygen a little. Bring it to fifteen liters." Johnny
requested, setting a sealed ambu bag into the stokes with the woman in case
it was needed later. "I'm strapping her in. Craig, her lungs are clear so far.
I.D.'s in her left front pocket!" he shouted up through the hole.

"Ok.." came Brice's disembodied voice above them.

"Got it." said Marco. "It's set to fifteen. High flow." Lopez replied.

"All right, now, Florence, here we go. It's gonna hurt, but I promise, my partner,
Craig, will go slow. Holler if something gets real bad and we'll halt immediately."
Johnny told his first victim.

Rogers closed her swollen eyes tightly in a prayer. "Just do it." she
gasped. "I can't stand being down here any-- any more." she gurgled.
"I....wanna live to see....another day. I got a little girl at home."

The shattered woman began to hoist upwards, inch by careful inch.

"Mike, how're your other victims?" Johnny shouted once she was
underway so Stoker could hear him where he was located
out of sight around a tangle of leaking water pipes.

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