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        En Route
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From:   patti k (pattik1@hotmail.com)
Sent:  Mon 11/15/10 1:08 PM
Subject:  Traces..

The Navy Seals had the new search plan brainstormed for
exploring the fallen bridge's caissons down to a fine art.
"Sound bottom!" cried the team leader as their powerfully
outfitted inflatable raft neared the fourth tower remnant tagged
by the Coast Guard helicopter's mapping sortie.

"Five meters, sir. We're still clear!" replied the raft's navigator
as he checked an electronic radar screen on a depth finder
set on top of a tied down metal case.

"Okay." said the team leader. "Notify Fireboat 110 that they
can approach and land with their people and dogs. How's the
surge?"

"Negligible, sir. The regular tide's at equilibrium. Tsumani effects
are over."

"Thank you, navigator. Cast off a marker buoy and let's begin
sonar sweeps. As usual, look for another way in other than over
the top. USAR's rappelling teams already have their hands more
than full. Try and find us a diver's mole hole!"

Roy DeSoto, Craig Brice, and Bob Bellingham were on board
Fireboat 110 along with USAR's captain, Robert Cooper and five
others on his team. They had out an infrared scanner, aimed at
the side of the concrete remnant the Navy said was safe enough
to approach.

"I'm reading victim signatures!" said one USAR firefighter.

"Where?" prompted Cooper, leaning carefully on the ocean shifting
boat deck to peer over the fireman's shoulder at the infrared gun's
tiny thermal imaging screen.

"About twenty five feet in, sir. Warmer than ambient air."

"So they're alive then. You're not just picking up corpses' body
core readings this time?"

"No, sir. All of their limbs are hot, too. I see five individuals."

"Any signs of conscious movement?"

"None." he said, studying the white hot silhouettes against
the dark gray background.
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Right then, the wind shifted and began to blow over the shattered
caisson and over their rescue boat.

A search dog on deck began to bark. The one trained to spot life.

"Right then. Radio the Seals that we have a positive reading."
said Robert. "Have them send in their divers to spot ours. We're
gonna comb every inch of exposed and submerged surfaces
until we find a way to get to them!" said Cooper.

Brice steadied himself against the rocking fire boat deck and joined
USAR's captain. "What are their temperatures showing?  They could
be hypothermic or suffocating in bad air."

"Around... 96F on some, still normal on others." replied the
scanning firefighter.

"Could they be sleeping if they're not injured?" Roy wondered.

"It's possible." Robert nodded. "We are seeing breathing on all of
them. They just might not be able to hear us out here."

"Can you tell male from female?" asked Bob Bellingham.

"No. Just these fuzzy, figure shaped silhouettes. Hair's too cold
to show up. Same goes for any finer details on their outlines."

"Good enough for me." said Bob, smacking Roy's shoulder
in encouragement. "I'll go call the engine crew."

Roy tried not to get excited. But then he saw something that
made that impossible. "Look! Over there in the water!"

"What is it?" asked Bellingham, squinting in the morning sun
reflecting off the debris choked waves.

Brice grabbed a rescue pole and hooked the object on board.
The color of it was registering as very familiar in his mind. "It's
an ambulance blanket. One of the Mayfair's."

DeSoto turned over the soggy wool in his gloves to confirm the
company logo's and spotted something else. "These are new
blood stains. Craig, I think we've found them." he whispered.

USAR and the Navy diving team began to pick up the pace,
mooring them to the broken island of jumbled concrete. "Come
on people! Don't dilly dally!" snapped Cooper. "I want air pocket
atmosphere quality checks before any heads start poking into gaps."
he said, pulling back one of his firemen who had done just that after
the whining dog starting actively digging in a spot."The search dogs
aren't your own personal mine hole canaries. There could be vehicles
and laden semi trucks down there loaded up with spilled toxic
chemicals." he warned. "We are all gonna stay safe. We come first.
Then we worry about digging out these victims." he growled.
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Captain Stanley just about leaped from the Ward LaFrance after Bob
got off HT frequencies. He rushed over to where Chet, Marco and Stoker
were fitfully sleeping on the ground on top of their firecoats.  "They've
found traces of live victims and an unrefutable find of a piece of debris
from Johnny's medical gear. We're going out there!"

"How?" asked Chet, scrambling to his feet to put his turnout and helmet
back on. "Fireboat 110's gone."

"We'll use them." said Cap pointing to the beach. "They are gonna be part
of the county fire department in a few years according to the chiefs, aren't
they? So let's request some mutual aid." he shared, indicating the yellow
Baywatch lifeguard boat pulled up onto the sand. Together, the four of
them ran to meet the team of lifeguards getting set to go search another
collapsed bridge caisson.

One of them looked up at Hank. "Captain? What's up?" he asked.

"Trapped victims have been located out there at the fourth caisson from
the north shore. We need a ride." Stanley said, no nonsense, his eyes
partially begging.

The big balding lifeguard nodded. "Hop aboard. We're just about ready
to shove off. Bring all the gear you've got."

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Soon, several stokes and all of Engine 51's medical, rescue and oxygen
supplies were neatly tied down in the center of the large neon yellow lifeguard
speed boat.  

"Put these on." offered the lifeguard Cap had approached, handing out four
big orange lifevests. "My name's Manny. I'll take you out there myself.
I understand that ambulance was one of yours." he said, pointing to
the battered hulk of the Mayfair a little way down the beach.

"Yes. It had two of our people on it. An EMT and a fire station paramedic."
Marco replied.

"What are their names so we know what to holler?" the lifeguard grinned.

"Johnny Gage and Rosalie Arnold." said Stoker, quickly sitting down
on a bench and grabbing hold of a mooring line for leverage. "There
was a National Guardsman found dead in the rig."

"They could be badly injured then." Manny frowned.

"That's what we're afraid of. Or worse." Hank told him.

"We'll do our best, sir." nodded Manny, pointing to another lifeguard
to launch them all.

"We sure appreciate it." Stanley said. Then he gave an update to CA-2
over the radio. "Engine 51 to CA-2 Battalion. Four on board with Baywatch
Avalon to caisson number four. Five viable victim signatures have been
located but are still inaccessible."

##CA-2 copies Engine 51. Notify me when you need a chopper to fly out
any casualties.##

"10- 4." said Cap.
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From: patti k (pattik1@hotmail.com)
Sent: Tue 11/16/10 3:46 PM
Subject:  Chip by Chip, Tit for Tat..

There finally came a lull in Triage. Every treatable victim found in Division One's
area around Torrance was on the way to at least some kind of advanced medical
care and permanent shelter in an area hospital. Only organizing restless green tags
remained. That and moving out black ones to the makeshift morgue in a parking lot
so they could be placed into body bags by L.A. County's Coroner Services unit.

Dixie McCall was on a portable biophone set aside for direct staff communications
with Nurse Sharon Walters. She was waiting for all the EMTs from Mayfair not
being used for rescues to show up for a situation debrief and a set of physical
checks. "Sharon, how are you holding up?"

##Dixie! It's so good to hear your voice. I heard about you being triage tagged
last night on a paramedic report tape. Are you okay?## Walters minced. McCall
could tell that she was standing inside of the paramedic base station with the
door closed. The echoes of the small, unseen familar room were unmistakable.

Dixie made her voice bright and relaxed.
"I'm fine. Just one of those nasty waking suppressed memories they always warn
you about in nursing school. Only this one wasn't from any hospital work. It was
from an incident I was literally trapped inside of during my college years." Dixie told
her gently, smiling. "Now enough about me. What's the situation by you? I heard
you ordered Rampart completely locked down at sunrise."

##I had to, Dixie. There was a riot outside. A California Highway Patrol Sergeant
I called for advice, strongly suggested it.## Sharon said quickly, very eager
for contact from her friend and fellow head nurse.

"Sharon, you did what you had to do." Dixie demurred. "It was the right choice.
I hope those people didn't rip each other to shreds trying to get in."

Walters was quick to reassure Dixie.
##They weren't that bad after a few police officers did some crowd control. A panicking
few thought the city was completely out of control emergency services wise after a day
of not seeing any. Most were only looking for medical help for minor injuries along
with some food and water. We had our cafeteria workers leave crates of bottled
beverages and sandwiches out along the dock in Shipping and Receiving. We left
those bay doors open. We're still treating them one by one. In the parking lot.##

"Smart girl. Sharon, answer me truthfully. Have you slept?"

##A little. Carol took over for me for five hours this morning. I think I crashed in the
chapel on a bench.## Walters sighed. ## I can't remember what I did exactly. But
everyone told me I at least napped a little.##

Dixie could almost see Sharon's bone weary face and sweat loosened hair.
"You picked a good place. Patients and staff can't pester you there. That's
where I always went during crunch times." McCall shared.

##So what's it like out there, Dixie? I've heard stories from patients about whole
neighborhoods lying completely in ruins from huge waves.##

"There were three of them." McCall told her. "Anything lower than fifty feet
above sea level at high tide and a quarter of a mile inland was either flooded
or totally washed away." she said. "The death toll is high. I won't even begin
to guess at how many. We've over three hundred just at this Triage station
alone. And our county has fourteen Triage locations set up like us near the coastal
regions. You already know how many red tags there were locally. Just multiply
those you received by three and you'll know that number for Torrance and Carson.
Our yellow tags were double the red's numbers. We had them shipped out on
buses to community hospitals, clinics and medical centers farther inland."
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##Is your staff handling it okay?##

"My Mayfair people are getting worn out after all night so I'm calling them in
for a few more hours respite right now."

##Is Kel with you? I can just imagine how much he's grumbling now.## she
sighed.

"He's been decent." Dixie shrugged. "It's Morton whose bedside manner is
getting out of hand. He won't even smile at a child now."

##Fix that with a practical joke. That's what Johnny does.## Sharon giggled.

The hard won peace on Dixie's face wiped completely away. And an uncomfortable
silence stretched long over the biocomm line.

##Dixie? Have they found him yet?## Sharon finally asked.

McCall's voice was tired and dry.
"There hasn't been any word. But they must be onto something at least tentative
because I haven't seen hide nor hair of Station 51's company in hours.  I've personally
seen both the squad and engine sitting empty and they've been absolutely stripped
down to their bare metal, equipment wise." Dixie said. "Roy even left Gage's helmet
sitting out on the dash--" she broke off, before old ugly emotions from the
night threatened to resurface.

##Shhh..## Walters soothed. ##If I hear anything about him coming in as a patient
on a log, I'll call you.## Sharon promised.

"Thanks, Sharon. Likewise." McCall told her. "Now go eat something. My people are
finally all here." she said, glancing about the fire department R&R tent. "Time to give
them all a serious pep talk." she chuckled.

Sharon finally sighed. ##Keep in touch, Dixie. It means a lot.##

"You, too. The same goes for me." Then she hung up the biophone receiver reluctantly.

McCall parked the white biophone unit back under her chair to monitor it by ear
and turned toward her charges with firm shoulders.
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A large chuck of concrete cracked away under the torque of a straining Hurst tool.

"Heads!" shouted the jaws operator.

The USAR team working close by where the dog had signalled all flattened instantly
and covered their helmets with their gloves.

Roy, Brice and Bob all ducked behind a protective boulder of debris. They had laid
out their paramedic gear hours ago and a clear plastic sack full of packaged I.V.
solutions were baking nicely in the sun to effectively heat them up to shock fighting
levels.

The work of extrication was going painfully slow. Progress wasn't being measured
in feet through the crushed caission wall. It was in chips and flakes; bare inches
that had been stymied often by criss crossing grids of twisted reinforcing rebar steel.

The wait, was agonizing.

"Any movement?" asked Roy again, unnecessarily of USAR's people working
equipment.

The sentry firefighter was fussing with the dark red thermal imager. He shook his
head. "The imager's power ran out. I'm still recharging it. I'll have it back in about
an hour."

Another USAR man, wearing a head set from a sound probe inserted into
another crack, replied. "I can still hear breathing when the surf quiets down a little
between the waves."

"Thanks, guys. Sorry for bugging you. Again." sighed DeSoto.

Then came a shout from the waterline. It was a Navy Seal diver, side by side
with a USAR fire department rescue diver in livid orange, treading water.
"We found a breach underwater! It gets us completely inside the caisson's
interior. We saw daylight, sir."

"What exactly is it like getting inside?" shouted down Robert Cooper.

"Open. Easily accessible once you swim over a blue van sitting in the way."
replied the diver. "The passageway's about twelve feet down, sixty feet
long in between two large slabs of roadway, slanted at an angle on the
sea bottom. About five feet by three feet by four feet wide at the min.
Like a ...lopsided triangle."

"Too far for breath holding." Cooper realized. "All right. Hang tight.
I'm grabbing you some paramedic backup." he told them. He ran
over to Craig, Roy and Bob. "Are any of you PADI certified?"

"We are." said DeSoto and Brice, looking at each other with hope.

The USAR captain grinned.
"We found a definite way in. Grab a couple of tanks and masks and
submersible first aid supplies. You're going swimming with the dive team."
Robert told them. "Looks like most of this caisson tower's unburied. We'll dive
in one by one, and then concentrate on reorganizing our search and rescue
operation. Only this time, from the inside. I'm convinced we're accomplishing
nearly next to nothing out here." He whistled sharply for the diggers to stop
trying to chip away through the wall with their power tools. Two hours' work
had yielded progress only ten inches deep at the search dog alerted hole.
"This is tough stuff."

The L.A. County fire paramedics hurried to the task. Bob Bellingham
looked askance. "Now I'm really sorry I never learned how to scuba." he
muttered.

The USAR Safety Officer, listening in, patted him on the shoulder in encouragement
before running back down to the waterline to go watch the others disembark.

Robert turned to another team, the one monitoring the victims. "Start pounding
on steel beams and making some racket. I want us to be heard.  Maybe our victims
can start helping us out a little by directing us to them by making some noise of their
own right back."

A fireman picked up a heavy wrench and megaphone and started hollering
and banging on struts and beams he knew penetrated deep underground.
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Johnny Gage looked up from where he was lying down trying to doze in between
his two critical victims."Did you hear that?" he asked Rosalie.

She lifted up her head from where she was cradled around the sleeping boy
to keep him a little warmer. "Hear what?" she asked. Then she froze, carefully
listening. "Oh. That. Johnny, that's the loose girder I told you was hanging
from the ladder going up the shaft. The wind from the hole above's making
it sway."

Gage got up onto his feet and looked up again for the billionth time at the
tiny patch of sky they could see, hundreds of feet up. "Maybe you're right.
Maybe I'm just wishing for things." he coughed.

"Wishing's....good." gasped Karen, the National Guardswoman with the
fractured femurs.

Both Rosalie and Johnny crouched back down by her side. "You're awake.
How are you feeling?" Gage asked, reaching for her carotid pulse.

"I'm hurting. But...not bad. Could be worse." she whispered dryly.

"Want some more pain medication?" Arnold asked her, pointing to the
morphine syringe still needle stabbed and hanging off the injection
chamber of Karen's I.V. line.

"O--okay.." she puffed.

"Rosalie, put her back on some oxygen. She's getting a little cyanotic
again." Johnny said. "Can't warm her up any, our blankets have been
soaked in seawater."

"Sure." said Arnold, getting up to make her way over to the scoop
stretcher and their medical supplies.  She swayed with a sudden
dizziness. "Whoa.." she said, grabbing onto the broken wall.

"Hey, are you all right?" Johnny asked, leaping up quickly to catch
an arm.

Arnold took in a deep testing breath and smiled. "Guess I'm getting
hungry again."

"I'll get you some glucose paste." he frowned. "And I'm taking another
BP. I haven't checked you since we found Karen and the van family who
knows how many hours ago."

"It can't be bad, Gage. I'm standing vertical here." she said dryly.

"Just barely." he groused.

Rosalie ignored his comment and deflected conversation.
"The boy's dry and warm now. And tired. He hasn't moved since I
positioned him that way." she smiled, pointing.

Johnny noticed she had rolled him into a recovery position. "He'll
probably keep snoring the rest of today and all through tomorrow.
He's been through a lot for a six year old kid. That sleep's protective."

"How are they doing?" she asked of the sleeping Uncle and Aunt
wrapped up in a tattered shock sheet.

"Fine. The uncle's lungs have cleared up. Guess we have a day or so
before secondary drowning sets in and causes some new pulmonary
edema. His EKG reading's doing fine so far. No electrolyte imbalances
at all."

"And mine?" Karen asked from the ground.

"And yours. You don't have any crush injuries to sky rocket your
serum potassium any. Nor any compartmental syndrome." Gage said,
tossing his head at her.

"Am I supposed to know what... all that means?" Karen asked
groggily.

"No. That's our job." Rosalie told her. "Half a mil more?"

Karen tried unsuccessfully to hide a wince of pain. "Okay."

Arnold injected the MS slowly by depressing the hanging syringe's
plunger. "There. Better?"

"...yeah..." she said, suddenly dreamy again.

"That's enough." Johnny warned lightly. "Just half a mil."

Rosalie faced him. "I didn't over do it. See?" she pointed. The
feisty EMT turned back to the leg shattered woman and fussed with
her dressings. "Good, Karen. You don't have to be uncomfortable." Arnold
said. She reached over to drag out a new oxygen cylinder for Karen.
"Oh, oo... Wow, that smarts." she said, pausing her activity. "D*mn rib
bruises."

"Heh. I knew you weren't immortal." Johnny smirked. Then he got
serious. "Short of breath any with that itty bitty, teeny tiny, little
sternal ache?"

"No." she answered. "Just finally acknowledging that I've been a little
meat tenderized." Rosalie snapped, snorted in victory as she finally found
a pain free way to get the job done. "Thank you very much for asking." she
said sarcastically as she nimbly got a flowing mask going on Karen.

"Collapsing bridges'll do that to ya." Gage joked. "Grab out another
cold pack for yourself if you think it won't really chill you down all that
much. That should help a ton like one did earlier in the rig."
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"I wanna save the rest of those for Karen. Her leg's'll probably need
some swelling reduction before too long."

Gage finally agreed, taking Karen's BP.  "Normal." he said, smiling down
at her. "Why don't you try to sleep some more? I'll let you know when
the pizza arrives." he chuckled, watching her breathing rate as it slowed.

Karen grinned. "Make mine a sausage." and then she drifted off
softly into sleep.

Johnny studied Karen until he was sure she was staying breathing strong.
"We've got to cut her MS down to one quarter of a mil at a time. She's
hypovolemic from sweating and from that mild blood loss."

"How much do you think she lost?"

"About six hundred CC's. I've replaced that with fluids, but she's red
cell shy now. Your turn." Gage ordered, waving gimme fingers at Rosalie.

"Hmm?"

"Vital signs." Gage reminded firmly.

Rosalie didn't make a face this time.
"Fine. Want me to do some jumping jacks first?" she asked, offering
him an upper arm.

"That'd be cheating." he said, wrapping the cuff around it. The valve
snicked quickly up to pressure and finally released as he listened
for the return of beats and when they went away again. "86 over
50, still." he said sagely.

"Why is it staying so low? I feel fine."

"You're not fine. You're trapped in a bridge tower under G*d knows
how many feet of water with no clear signs of rescue coming any
time soon. And you're hungry, just like you said. Your emotions are
bound to get the body a little depressed. Mine probably is, too." he
told her, handing over a tube of sugar paste. "Eat. I promise you
it'll taste thoroughly disgusting."

"What flavor is it?"

"Fruit punch. Ponch ate all of the cherry ones while restocking the
Mayfair. He got us these in trade."

"I'll kill him." Rosalie promised, without heat.

"Can't. He's the lucky one. He's somewhere out there, getting sunburned."
Johnny grinned.

"Then I'll kill him later on. First with a glare, and then with my fist. My
right one. Right in the kisser. Full force."

"Why not with the left one? I have a feeling you like dishing out double
crosses."

"Because that one's bruised, too. I--" she admitted, squeezing her eyes shut
in smiling dismay because Johnny had tricked another medical question
out of her. "You devious fox, you."

"I try. Most of my patients cooperate with me I'll have you realize." he said
archly, rubbing his face with infinite patience.
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"I'm not a patient." she said, squeezing the pink gel tube's contents into
her unwilling mouth. "Oh, aghh." she gagged, but swallowing dutifully.

"Sure you are. Until a doctor clears you, and you know it." Gage said
with finality, peeling off the blood pressure cuff. "Rules are rules.
You signed Mayfair Company's contract. And that's in the fine print
regarding getting injured on the job."

"Sucker deal. That Mayfair should have had a hidden box of cherry
gluc tubes on board; that the average EMT shouldn't have been able
to find right away."

"Oh, so now you're calling Ponch average?" he asked suggestively.

"I am." Rosalie said, getting it immediately. Her smile widened slowly.

"Am I?" Johnny's crooked, cockeyed one started to match hers.

"Definitely not." Arnold said. And then she kissed him lightly on
the lips before rolling over onto her less painful side to sleep again.
Her snores began punctuating the air instantly.

Gage grinned, and licked his lips appreciatively as he hunkered
down for a long afternoon of monitoring all of his patients. "Now
that's better than cherry." he remarked happily, and very timid.

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From: patti k (pattik1@hotmail.com)
Sent: Wed 11/17/10 10:06 AM
Subject: Paths...

Chet eagerly tossed a mooring rope to USAR's safety man from the lifeguard
scarab. "What do you got?" he shouted to him.

"Still five victims! All alive. We've just located a submerged passageway that
leads inside. No hazards found yet." reported the fireman. "We haven't been
able to get to them directly. The find was on the thermal imager and based
on a positive life dog point."

"Alive is good." said Captain Stanley, leaping to the concrete island. He
located the painted search hole and saw the minimal dent that tools had
made in the pavement wall. "Man, not even crackable." he muttered, glove
fingering the rebar jutting out from the small breach that was there. "I never
thought I'd see the day where I actually want to curse the Army Corps of
Engineers for their construction savvy. Today's it." he frowned.

The search dog was still going crazy. His handler took pity on his continued
frustration and ordered him back to his crate at the waterline.

Bob Bellingham came to help his crewmates to land. "Cap, I couldn't go with
them. They're all below."

Hank nodded. "Hey, we're specialists of fire, not water. DeSoto and Brice
are just weird that they also happen to be part fish. Don't feel bad. There's
plenty we can do up here while we're waiting."

Manny, the lifeguard, was already putting on a wet suit. "We can go down.
I'll be the physical go between until we find out whether or not radios work
on the inside. We have marker boards and crayons that write underwater
if a landmark map or patient information needs to be sketched and brought
out here."

Cap nodded. "I'll let our IC know you two are entering." he said about
the Baywatch pair's plans.

Mike Stoker was eyeing up the remains of the caisson tower critically
for stability alongside the Safety Officer from USAR. "Any rumbling?"

"Not much away from the surfline. We're getting lucky that way. What you're
hearing right now are just concrete boulders friction rubbing the debris island
in the waves. That should die down a little once the tide's finished going out."

"Any reply backs?" Marco asked as he also picked up a long rod of rebar
and began hitting metal beams to join the signalers team.

"Not yet. The waves have been too noisy to pinpoint any actual responses."

"Too bad the dogs are trained to bark only at scents and not at victim noises."
51's engineer remarked. He soon twitched where he stood. "This is taking too
long. Cap, I'm gonna grab out our sound probe and start listening electronically
with the other firemen." Stoker said.

"You took the words out of my own mouth." Hank told him.

Kelly gestured a circle in the air with his glove. "Anyone physically try
to do a 360 walk around the whole caisson base?"

The Safety shook his head. "We stopped when we got the clear signatures."

Chet grinned wolfishly at the dog handler. "Can I borrow your dog?"

"Be my guest. Watch his body english, he'll steer you around soft spots."
the handler instructed. "You'll lose that guidance if you let him off
his lead."

"I stand forewarned. Reined in mutt works for me." Kelly said. "Come on,
Marco. You're my rear man. I'll holler on HT if we find any new holes, Cap."
he said, pocketting a can of orange marker spray paint. "I don't know about
you, but I want in."
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"No entry, Chet. That's an order. There's a team already down there. Last
thing we need to do is dislodge a whole roof down onto the top them by
crawling around."

"Yes, sir."

Hank watched as Chet saluted a serious acknowledgement.
The joker in the Irish fireman was long gone in the face of life and death.
"Sorry. I know you're in rescue mode now." Hank told him.

Kelly waved him off in forgiving dismissal.

Cap parked on a convenient flat slab near the rescue gear and extrication
equipment to monitor all of their radios and soon, he started plastic bagging
a few for the swimmers in the water when they decided to return for more
tools.

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

Johnny jolted when the old woman awoke with a start. "Ma'am. It's
okay. We're still dry." he called out, gripping her shoulders while
she regained equilibrium. "Joshua and Bernie are still asleep."

"Oh, sakes. That was a nasty dream." she coughed, wiping some
spittle from her pebble encrusted face. "What time is it?" she asked,
sitting up.

Johnny studied his watch. "It's coming up on two p.m. Still feeling
okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's a little chilly, but I'll manage." she said with dignity
as she fingered her graying hair back into a sad parody of neatness.

"What's your name? I don't believe your husband or nephew ever told
me that."

"Oh.." she shaded with embarrassment."That's because I hate my first
name. It's Gertrude." she confided.

Gage leaned in confidentially. "Is it all right if I call you Gertie then? It's
kinda nice with a name like Bernie, your husband's."

"That'll be fine." she said with regal timidity. Then her mothering instincts
started extending past the ones that were making her stroke Joshua's
peaceful cheek. "How are they doing?" she asked about Rosalie and
Karen.

"Karen and Arnold? They're still stable. And comfortable." Gage answered.

Gertie sighed with relief, but then her wrinkled cheerful face clouded.
"I don't know how long you've been with your ambulance partner,
but mark my words. I think she's hiding symptoms."

"Oh, yeah?" Johnny asked, suspicious all over again about Arnold.

"Yep." said Gertie. "Believe me, I've lived a long time so I'm an
absolute expert when it comes to seeing love at first sight."

"It's.. w-what did you say?" Johnny gaped, open mouthed. His thoughts
about medical injuries and Rosalie's spicy personality completely going
out of his head.

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"Oh, come now young man. You're just as smitten with the young lady.
That's plain as day." she giggled. "If you two didn't have all of us here
trapped with you like this, you two'd be all over each other." she declared.
"And you're suffering the exact same disease."

"W--" Johnny sputtered. "Do you really think Rosalie's my one true love
in life? Even without actually knowing her?"

"Yep. And I don't know you either. Usually I don't talk to strange men,
being married and all." she confided with a wink. "But I do speak my
mind about a special kind of love whenever I see it. There's nothing
greater. I know true love because that's how it was between me and
Bernie. Thanks for saving all our lives, Mr. Fireman." she said absently
patting Johnny's hand in gratitude.

"It's Johnny. Johnny Gage." he offered lamely, stunned. "And you're
welcome, Gertie. Glad I could be of service." he slurred, totally
dumbfounded. "It's my job and I'm glad I'm good at it.. and--" he trailed
off absently, eyes going wide with a soft new emotional fear.

His eyes cast over to Rosalie's sleeping shadow with a new budding,
protective realization. And with that, came a half smile that just made
old Gertie chuckle merrily all over again.
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***************************************************
From: patti k (pattik1@hotmail.com)
Subject: Expert Drilling..
Sent: Sun 11/21/10 3:47 AM

The way was murky, and the continuous sounds of settling steel and grinding rubble
were magnified underwater. After what seemed a very long time, Roy DeSoto felt
a tap on top of his head. He lifted his diving mask out of the water and felt the
heaviness of gravity return as salty dank air resettled around his head and neck. He
carefully removed the regulator from his mouth. "Thanks." he told his guide.
"I couldn't see which way was up."

Next to him, Brice surfaced from the inky brine neatly, not disoriented at all.
His nimbleness made Roy suddenly feel old and frighteningly out of his element.
DeSoto squashed the odd, rising emotion quickly, chalking it up as worry and
a temporary lack of concentration.

"Okay. This is it." replied the Navy Seal who was overseeing the two fire paramedics
safe arrival inside. "Keep your head low by the pool until your eyes get used to the dark.
There's a large broken beam right above us. We've only got battery powered lamps
to use until we get the portable generator that we've brought inside, up and running."

Soon, Brice and Roy learned that the space away from the edge of the seawater hole
extended far up over their heads, towering vertical. It proved that they were in the
heart of the caisson hundreds of feet below where it met the barest feeble square
of bright sky, glowing feebly, far above.

"Any audible responses being heard?" asked Craig Brice as he peeled out of his
dive suit to a uniform underneath. From a plastic bag, he drew out his and Roy's
turnout jackets and helmets and a wrapped handy talkie. After he was through,
he helped DeSoto out of his and his heavy air bottle.

None of the USAR or Navy Seals personnel could be seen past their helmet
lamps illuminating just their upper bodies and shoulders in the darkness.

"Not yet." said a USAR listener. "Just the ambient so far." he said, moving his sound
probe into another crack that his flashlight had found.

"Which way are they from here?" asked Roy, peering about in the blackness
with a flashlight. Sea salt was stinging the skin around his ankles above the socks
and boots he still wore. All of the rescuers hadn't wanted to waste time by using
flippers. The cold that had built up during the night was still present and his breath
steamed richly in the air around his mouth. "I've lost track of my sense of direction."

A specialist got up from the crouch he was in over a pack of equipment. He angled
a small floating compass under a wrist light and twisted around in a 360 to get a
bearing. "Everybody does in the dark." He drew out a spray can of flourescent
orange and painted a big "V" for victim on the wall with a numeric directional
bearing and an arrow pointing the way. "Right there."

Roy frowned, looking up and down the whole area for some kind of breach. There
wasn't one. "But that's still a wall."

The fireman nodded. "But it's a thin one." he grinned. "Nine inches of debris at
the most and we're guessing, with just one overlapping piece of soft asphalt
sandwiched in between all the junk. After we punch through that, we'll reach the
chamber the thermal imager saw. We're on the exact back side of it. Structural
integrity here's very solid all things considering. We won't have to worry about
any large cave ins. Just annoying tiny ones that raise a lot of dust."

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"So what's the next step?" Brice asked, checking the squad's HT carefully for
moisture before turning it on.

Robert Cooper replied. He was still in his bright orange dive suit and tank.
"We'll drill in an air hole and take a sample. If it's safe, we can start digging
operations with the power tools. We'll pump in oxygen for the victims if the space
behind is big enough not to oversaturate to a flash point, through that testing
bore." he replied. "Specialist O'Mally's right about the dust. It's gonna get bad.
Everybody, start wearing your N95s from here on out." he hollered, so everybody
could hear him. "Goggles aren't such a bad idea either. Use them."

"Dandy." DeSoto said happily, reaching for the handy talkie eagerly. Brice
let him have it. "Squad 51 to Engine 51, do you read?" DeSoto hailed after
he had put on his paper dust mask and filter over his nose and mouth.

##Engine 51, Squad 51, loud and clear. How is it in there?"

"Very stable surroundings, they tell me, but light is at a bare minimum. In our favor,
there is abundant outside air. We're exposed to the sky. I don't think those extra
scba will be needed. There's no smoke and no more small confined spaces.
We also seem to be in a spot where a line from a chopper might be able to
make stretcher and equipment drops from the top."

##We'll be waiting for news. Keep abreast of it.## Cap replied quickly.

"10- 4, Cap. Count on it." Then he turned to Brice. "What did you bring along?"

"Airways, I.V.s, infusion sets, morphine, epinephrine, tourniquets, occlusive
dressings and kerlix. One stethoscope, one BP cuff adult, one pediatric. I figured
we can use some of the debris lying around here for splinting and spinal
immobilization. There's enough wood and small rods lying around."

Roy nodded in appreciation for the choices Brice had made for gear in the few
seconds they had been given to prepare.

A USAR lieutenant in charge of logistics had overheard their conversation.
"We also brought in oxygen and oxygen masks, enough for all for about six hours."
he replied. "But that's it."

Craig ended his concern. "After that runs out, we can help blood O2 support
by aiding the victims on ambus using room air to keep up good perfusion."

"Really?" The technical firefighter seemed surprised by that care method.

"It's always worked in the past for those awake who've needed it. Even with
the breathing unconscious. Patients tolerate it well if the timing's kept right." Roy
smiled. "What would you like us to do in the meantime?" he said, eyeing up a
thoughtful Cooper. He could see that Robert's mind was staying miles ahead
on the technical rescue at hand.

The USAR captain's answer was quick. "Help the listener." Cooper told them. "We
won't be able to concentrate on digging and victim monitoring at the same time. We
have to watch out for falling debris coming potentially from all directions once we
get the drill bit committed to biting concrete. I want nobody on the sidelines getting
hurt. Our team's safety is number one priority."

"Understood." Brice answered. "We'll keep out of the way."
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The hours moved by slowly. It was only the watch Johnny was wearing that kept
him accurate about what actual time it was. Early evening was descending. But
exhaustion finally had taken Gage deep into fitful slumber despite his paramedic
instincts to stay awake. It was nearing the thirty six hour mark since they had been
buried by the tsunami.

Joshua, the boy from the van, woke up quietly, fevered with thirst.  Thinking only of
that, he crawled over to the hole that Johnny had rescued him from and the dark,
appealing water he heard lapping there as it churned. He dipped a hand into its
upwelling froth and started bringing a palmful to his mouth.

"Joshua, no!" said Rosalie, awakened by the rub of rock the boy's shoes had
made. She stopped him by knocking his hand away. "You can't drink that water.
It's not fresh. That's from the ocean."

"Why? What would happen?" he asked, scared by her frightening reaction.

"It would make you sick. First throwing up and then a really bad headache and
stomach pains, like the flu." she tried to explain.

"But I'm so thirsty." he sobbed softly.

"I know. So am I. We can help that real easy, but it's not going to be fun all right?
It involves getting a shot."

"No way." he said, pulling away from her, coughing from the dust in the air.

"Come on, let's go back to your aunt and uncle. Then I'll wake Johnny and he'll
explain things about what we need to do next. I promise we'll tell you how we
can make your thirst go away, Joshua. Okay?" Arnold said, opening her arms
in an invite to a hug. "All you have to do is listen, all right?"

The rumpled boy accepted her offered comfort and let himself be lifted up and
carried back to their refuge by the rescue gear. Rosalie grunted at her sore spots
with the effort. But then she ignored them.

The scuffling awoke Gage. "Rosalie? Problem?" he asked, instantly awake.

"Nothing that some hydration won't cure. Joshua here thought the hole was
one he could drink from."

"I thought I could wait a little longer, but we're all going to need some soon."
Johnny pegged the boy with a steady look. "Now we've been over this before, Joshua.
You're gonna have to let me give you a shot like we talked about. These I.V.s bags are
water, but they don't taste good like the drinking fountain at your school does." he
said, hefting one up.

"I don't want to." Joshua fretted, beginning to cry. The commotion soon woke
up everybody else from their dozes. "I hate getting shots!"

"Joshua. Come here by me." said Gertie gently, immediately understanding what
was going on. "I'll explain exactly what an I.V. is again. See the one Karen's got?
It's making her all better."

Karen smiled at the boy. "It only hurts for a couple of seconds, Joshua." she said.
"Now I can't even feel it." she encouraged. "I'm not thirsty any more." Then
she gestured for him to lean close to her. "If you really want to know, all of
this water going into my arm's making me want to pee my pants really bad." she
confessed into the boy's ear.

Joshua laughed, his sense of humor fighting the tears. "So why don't you go
to the bathroom?"

"I don't have anything to go into. Can you find me something?" she asked.

"Sure." said the boy. "I'll hold up a sheet so you can be private. I know how
you girls are."

"Thanks, Joshua. Then will you let Johnny put some water from a bag into
your arm? If you do, we can both be twins in the Arm Water Club." she grinned,
blinking slowly, concentrating on the boy.

"Hey, I want to join that club, too." said Bernie.  "So it's a little prick in the arm. Big
deal. I can handle it. And I'll just bet, so can you, Joshua. Aren't you a big boy now?"

Joshua curled away in a hugging cringe in Rosalie's arms.

"Sure you are." said Gertie.

"It still sounds too scary." said the boy, sobbed.

"Tell you what, I'll go first." Gertie added. "Then your uncle will, so you can see how it's
done. But first you help Karen out of her predicament like you do one of your
sisters. I'm sure she'll appreciate the help."

"Rosalie and I aren't gonna be chicken, Joshua. We're both getting one." challenged
Gage.

That irked the boy's sense of grown up pride.
"All right. But I need time to think about it first." Joshua said.

"Deal." said his aunt with a smile.

Gage handed him the metal bedpan and an opened shock sheet package. He whispered
confidentially to the boy. "She'll know what to do with this metal pan. Afterwards, dump it
into the hole, okay?"

The boy nodded, sniffling.

"That's a good helper. We'll make a rescuer out of you yet." he told the boy, messing up
Joshua's hair in encouragement.

Arnold let the boy go to Karen's side. When he had moved off into the darkness, she looked
to Johnny. "Topical lidocaine?"

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"Yeah, we can try that. Numb's gonna work good." he agreed. "Okay Gertie, you know the
drill. Our kidneys'll thank us. Give me your arm."

The old woman shivered bravely and handed it over. "It runs in the family, this needle phobia."
she warned him. "I might flinch. Or faint."

"I'm practically painless." he promised. "Thanks for volunteering. Drinking these would use them
up too fast. We need to ration water." he said. "Are you hungry any?"

"Not really. Far from." Gertie said feebly, nervous.

"Okay. Then it's normal saline over a D5W." Johnny said, swabbing down the place briskly.

"What's the difference?" she asked, morbidly curious over the glistening bags Gage had lined
up on a concrete slab.

"Salt versus sugar. The second kills hunger pangs and the shakes."

"Too much information." said the aunt with pursed lips, screwing her eyes shut apprehensively
when she felt the paramedic pin her arm under his armpit.

"Try not to yelp this time dear, or our nephew'll hear." Bernie said from the corner of his mouth
at her. "Remember how you were when you needed an I.V. when you got pneumonia last winter."

"Oh, you..." she hissed back at her husband.

A few minutes later, Johnny had I.V.s going on both the aunt and uncle and Rosalie, dialed into slow
drips. Then he heard the boy returning from his task.

Whistling nonchalantly in an act, he began to swab down his own arm with alcohol. "Yum, it's seven
up coming my way in a few." he winked. Joshua looked fearfully at the whole procedure unraveling
before his eyes. Johnny engaged him. "Did ya rinse it out afterwards?"

"Huh?" asked the horror struck boy, his eyes glued helplessly to Johnny's arm.

"The bedpan. Did ya remember to wash it?"

"Yeah. It's fine." replied Joshua, frozen. "Here." he said, handing the seawater dripping thing back to him. His eyes never left Johnny's arm skin where the swab was busy at work.

Gage pretended he didn't notice the petrification. "Thanks, man. We gotta share that so we don't
want it to smell." he said, setting it aside. "Ready to help me out a little? I'm gonna need someone
to tape off this water tube after I hook it up to me. Think you can do that?"

Joshua's head moved woodenly, nodding yes.

"Okay, so be my paramedic partner. Tear off about four long strips. " he said handing over a
roll of paper tape to the boy. "Stick them in rows onto your jeans so they don't get messed up.
Make each one about six inches long."

Joshua did so, his eyes never leaving Johnny's fingers. They widened hugely when it came time for
the catheterized needle to come out. But he didn't scramble away. Gage grinned. He lifted up his knee after tying a tourniquet around his upper arm with his free hand and his teeth. "See that vein sticking up now? That's the one. X marks the spot..." he mumbled, stabbing down the needle's sterile point. "OwwwWW!" he hollered. "My arm's falling off!" he mock whined, writhing his legs around like suffocating fish on a beach.

Joshua jumped, laughing in partial horror as he covered his mouth in mock fright with both hands.

"Just kidding." Gage sniffed, settling down to business."It hurts less than a paper cut." he said,
acting bored. "Okay, time for the first piece of tape. Put it right there where the tube's turned red."

"Is that your blood?" Joshua asked, curious.

"Yep. Not much, huh?"

"No. I thought it would gush out all over the place." said the boy.

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"Oh, you mean like this?" Johnny said, letting the rubber band in his teeth go. A thin stream of blood
shot out of the I.V. catheter in his arm and sprayed the wall in front of them in a harmless gory red
splatter.

Joshua crowed in bright laughter.

Gage immediately tamped it down with a finger on his vein above the catheter site and chuckled.
"I'm not actually supposed to do that, but nobody's watching us right now." he yawned. "Okay
tape it off, right around the tube by my pinky like a bumble around a girl's pony tail." he said, holding
up the flowing line he had left waiting on a rock.

"Like that?"

"Yep. Looking good."

"Seven up, huh?" asked the boy. "What kind of I.V. flavor is that?" he asked as he finished his tape job.

"The flat kind. Think I'm lying? Smell your fingers once." he said, dripping some drops of D5W onto
his hand from the sterile end of the primed tubing.

"It IS seven up." the boy shrugged, tasting it experimentally. "But with no bubbles."

"Right. Bubbles would be bad." he said, mating the end of the catheter to the I.V. line.

"Why?"

Johnny did a double take, biting his lip. "Never mind. I'll tell you later if I remember to. Okay, tape
pieces two, three and four. What we gotta do it make sure this tube in my arm vein doesn't pull
out. So tape it along my arm, straight up and down like a stick, after making a loop like a candy
cane. See how?"

"I think so." said Joshua, working hard with a tongue sticking out. He squinted as he
concentrated. "There. Is that right?"

"You're hired, kid." Gage grinned, testing out his arm by jiggling it. "This I.V.'s perfectly taped.
Now, see that dial on the drip chamber?"

"Yeah."

"Turn it on with your thumb after grabbing onto the I.V. line."

"What does it do?"

"That controls how much water I get by the drip."

"How much do you want?"

"A lot. I'm parched. Turn it up until it's gushing. I'll turn it down once I'm not feeling
thirsty any more."

"But won't your veins start burping if they drink it too fast?"

Gertie chuckled, rubbing her face with amusement.

"They don't have a stomach and but they've got big throats. I'll be fine. Okay, it's
your turn." Johnny announced.

"Do I have to?" Joshua said, the smile wiping off of his face.

"Club initiation cost.." Johnny levelled. "Can't join without one."

"Okay, but don't tell anyone I almost chickened out." Joshua said.

"Want your I.V. to fire hose a little afterwards?"

"Yeah! I want my blood to hit the moon!"

Gertie's face leaked out a look of disgust around her fake smile but she managed to stay
silent and upright at the verbal interaction.
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