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   The Fire Within
   Movie One
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               Page Seventeen

*Attention*- The following casualties are all CGI generated images.

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Chief Rorchek's eyes couldn't hide the flash of anxiety in them when
he saw who it was that sought him out. "Boys, about Chris?" he
began.

Roy set him at ease. "Sir, he's alive. And his pressure's not that
far off normal as far as we can tell. His capillary refill's around
two seconds. He's not in bad shock."

Joe sighed in tremendous relief, folding his arms across his chest
as he let go of his tight fingers hold on his HT. "Injuries?" he asked
quickly.

"Too soon to tell. His location has a lot of tricky debris piles. We
don't want to make things worse by causing any settling."

"That's fine, that's good." Joe said happily. "Don't rush a single step."
Then his emotions got the best of him and he started tearing up
as killer stress just melted away. "Thanks, boys." he sniffed.

Roy and Johnny just smiled respectfully, giving him a little privacy by
not staring.

"Think I'll ....take a break and go call my wife and tell her the good news.
the chief said. "Hank, you're in charge."

"Gladly, sir." Stanley nodded.

John was still smiling, looking around at a landscape that was blissfully
just black and white without the orange of flame when he spied Mike Stoker
getting wheeled by on a stretcher. "Mike?" he blurted, his grin falling away.

Hank stopped Johnny's forward rush with a hand on Gage's chest. "Let
him sleep. He's fine."

Roy asked. "What happened?"

"He saved a little girl." Stanley beamed. "But I'll let him tell that tale later."

"And all that blood?" Gage asked, getting mad that Cap was ordering him
away from a wounded friend.

"Just some needed stitches. No surgery." Hank said. "Now go paramedic
our top priority. Chris Rorchek needs the two of you more than he does."

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Reluctantly, not taking their eyes off of their I.V. trailing engineer, Roy
and Johnny mainly groped for a new set of air bottles by feel alone
before they obeyed the order to jog back inside.

The interior was very black and growing wet from cold air condensation
as they made their way back to the activity in the clean room. The
lieutenant in charge of rescue there told them to come back in five minutes
to treat their victim, when an arm would be freed, and to stop bugging them
during an operation.

Properly chided, DeSoto and Gage listened to a nagging curiosity about
the horror that had nearly killed them all. So they crawled and slid, and
crouch stepped over to the massive crater where the fuel fire rupture
began. The earth there was still steaming, hot and dry. But the rust and black
stained dirt didn't burn their boot soles as they stepped around the gas
utilities men quickly sawing off and capping the ragged ends of the aviation
fuel pipeline.

Just then, a fire department light tower snicked on overhead and illuminated
the lunar like landscape. Roy and Johnny just gaped. The hole they were
standing in was about the size of a parking lot and the gas men, were like
ants inside the massive blast funnel the explosions had left behind.

Humbled, they quickly returned back to the rescue scene.

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An arm never looked so good to Johnny as Chris's did when the arff
stepped aside to let them in. "Roy?"

"Here." said DeSoto, tossing him an I.V. infusion kit. "I'll get a BP
next. I can feel a brachial pulse."

Gage sighed and felt like he had dodged a bullet. "Then his profusion's
still real good."

"Looks like it. And nobody's seen any blood pools forming
underneath him. That's a nice sign of things to come. Glad of it."
DeSoto replied. Then he started blinking as he tore off strips of I.V.
tape. "Speaking of our happiness, we forgot something in all the
excitement."

"What?" Gage said, kind of grumpy at being distracted from his work
of reaching around sharp pieces of metal and incumbering pipework
to find a listening spot for his sound probe an arff had lent him so he
could do better than just guess at a respiration rate.

"We forgot to get that clean agent gas information."

"Oh." Gage said, still concentrating. "Chet can get that. Can't you, Chet?"

"Sure." he said, lifting a radio to his lips. "HT-51-A clean room to IC1."

##Go ahead, HT-51.## Rorchek said with energy, still buoyed by his
recent news.

"What's the stuff Chris got into?"

##That? Oh, Joanne asked about it for you. It's 3M Novec 1230. It's
an inert carbon-based chemical that's absolutely safe for property, people,
and the environment. It'll only exist outside those pressurized tanks for
five days. Then it decays to just nitrogen and oxygen.##

"Huh. To regular air?" Marco mused. "Boy, do I gotta read about this stuff."

But Johnny wasn't paying Lopez any attention. "Kelly, would you jus--!"
Gage snatched away the radio from Kelly in irritation. "...ask the right questions?!"
he said with clenched teeth.

"I'm not a paramedic." Chet shrugged, not offended.

Roy just smiled and dialed up the normal saline solution I.V., amused and
staying out of it.

"No, but I wish someday that you'd at least try to be." Johnny said.

"Is that a challenge?" Kelly asked, open mouthed.

"No, a hypothetical." Gage replied emphatically to erase any ideas of grandeur
in him before they could become rooted. Then he thumbed the mic. "Chief,
specifically physical aspirant qualities. Any chance of drowning in the stuff?"

##None whatsoever. It looks like water, but doesnít cause the damage normally
associated with water because it contains no moisture. When it hits lung tissue,
it'll just evaporate. Its danger lies only in the air it displaces while active and
that's mainly why I was so worried earlier on during the rescue.##

"Thank you." Johnny said, setting down the radio. Then he picked it up again
as an afterthought. "Oh, by the way tell the doc his vitals signs are: BP.." and he
held out his radio to Roy.

"94 over 70." DeSoto chimed in.

And then Johnny pulled the radio back to his mouth. "Pulse 56, respirations
electronically seem to be eight but deep. We've yet to uncover his head."

##Sounds like he's sleeping.## They heard Joanne intone over the speaker.

"Being stuck in this claustrophobic room's a good reason to take a nap!"
Chet said loudly.

Marco smacked him.

##What?## Joe said. ##That was funny. And I'm grateful for all you're doing
for him. Ted out here's chaffing at the bit to get his hands on Chris but both
he and I know the regulations against family treating family. Isn't that right, Ted?##

Chet bit his lip, choking down laughter.

An arff interrupted him. "We got it, fellas!" said Al Martelli.

A careful circle of firefighters slowly tipped the K-12 flower petalled
storage tank off of two large pieces of pipework that had boxed in Chris's
face. The mask of his scba, was shattered, and intact, but it was lying
near his shoulder, askew.

"Oh, h-hang on a second, chief. He's free." Gage said, thunking down
the HT onto the damp floor in his eagerness to get right in there up close
and personal.

Roy DeSoto lightly rubbed a few knuckles into Chris's breast bone.
"Chris? Come on, wake up. Can you hear me?" he asked, nodding to
an arff to keep Rorchek's head still in careful C-spine immobility.

All the firefighters in the room could almost hear the bated breaths of
those listening in all over the airport through the radio. Even those working
in the morgue fell silent.
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For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then Chris's face screwed up in
vague discomfort and he tried to speak. "Ugh.. is it out yet?" he croaked
with a dry throat.

Everyone cheered at the top of their lungs as Chris's caked eyes slowly
cracked open. Then he raised his I.V. free arm up and reached out a hand
for someone's radio. He said just four words. "Hi, dad. What's shaking?"

##Nothing any more. You slept right through it, son. Congratulations on
kicking a big dent into that huge behemoth of a fire. It made all the difference
in the world in the end. How're you feeling?##

"Happy to be alive. Tell Hallie she owes me one big time."

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Roy watched as Ted and Johnny helped irrigate a fair sized burn on
Chris's right leg while he lay on a burn pack. He himself was getting his
wrist burn attended to by Dr. Brackett who showed as much skill at
painless salving and dressing as he always did.

Joe had relented and let his youngest son fuss over his oldest now
that the critical phase of care giving was over.

Johnny Gage had to take a little break from his official duties when
an estatically tearful Hallie gave him a great big hug of gratitude
complete with a soggy wet, hard peck on the cheek once he had
gotten out of his contaminated uniform and into Red Cross donated ski wear.
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Chris's face had started to bleed from unseen small cuts in the cold,
but he asked that the EMTs steering his stretcher stop a moment so
he could speak with his rescuers. "You know, I really appreciate
everything that you guys did in there for me. I can't say I would've
done the same thing. That room's my new nemesis." he joked, belying
the healthy frown that sprouted on his bruised face.

Captain Stanley chuckled. "I'm just sorry it took a disaster to pull
us all together into a really cohesive team."

"That would have happened anyway, sir." he said. "Firefighters are
brothers for life."

"Anytime, man. Anytime.." Kelly said, taking Chris's offered hand.

Chris sighed as one of his attendents fitted him with precautionary
oxygen, "So, where's my girl, huh?" he asked.

Hallie Green looked, for a moment, surprised.

But then, Chris picked up his head and looked beyond his blanketed
feet.

Sophie the fire dog, was waiting patiently in the snow a short distance
away, eagering awaiting one single command.

"Come here, girl." Chris said.

The dalmatian's cry of happiness as she sprang to his side, was joyous.
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Together, Sophie and Chris wheeled off for a nearby warmed ambulance
and where Joanne Almstedt, with her full array of gear, was waiting for them.

"Who's hungry?" Gage asked, when somebody's stomach growled
quite audibly.

Everyone's hands went up.  

Hallie got over her conundrum misunderstanding when Joe Rorchek
stepped over to her side. "You haven't been forgotten. He knows
you would have worked yourself ragged before you let anything bad
happen to him. I know my son. And.. I know that he's secretly devoted
to you." said Joe.

"Chief.. I-I.."

The elder Rorchek held up a hand to shush her before she said something that
she regretted. "Here, let me prove it." he said, handing her an object. It was
undefinable, melted and gray.

"What's this?" she said, taking it with barely veiled dislike.

"Well," said Joe. "When Chris realized that you weren't in the clean room
when he woke up, he felt you were being...oh,... a little negligent."

Green's mouth fell wide open. "Chief! I was unconscious, and and.. and I
was being treated on your orders. And Dr. Brackett's.. Why I..."

Joe dropped the punning punchline. "Hallie.. He wanted me to give you the boot."

Next to him, Chet's eyes glazed over in sheer admiration. "Now that...
is what I call.. the mother of all jokes."

Captain Stanley could only nod, yes.

Kelly smirked. "Bet that's Chris's."

"No bet." said Hank.

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It was a little bit warmer that same night at the airport fire station.

Everybody was feeling different levels of energy compared to everyone else
over the dinner table. But as expected, all the food plates had been scraped
clean. Sophie, would have to do without.

Captain Stanley was well groomed, not at all interested in the local paper,
and analytical. "Well, I gotta tell ya. Things could have been a whole lot
worse."

Dr. Brackett piped up. "How do you figure? I'd say a sixty eight percent
fatality rate is rather high for an incident involving an entire airport population,
wouldn't you agree?"

Joanne Almstedt pursed her lips around a hot mug of tea. "Can't judge
our disaster against anything, Kel." she mused."So many factors came
into play all at once that was...absolutely lethal from the first second.
A crashed Concorde travelling three hundred twelve miles an hour....
A ruptured fuel line the size and diameter of a sports car..."

Cap was bleak. "Fifty percent fire coverage."

"That's worse than a forest fire." Roy said, shocked.

"Yeah, and only nine percent foam. Even with all of our fire trucks pumping
it out all at once." Stoker added.

"Don't remind me." Stanley sulked vaguely. "I'm still thinking about that
middle airplane. What could we have done differently? What would have
been faster? So many people....just died." he whispered.

"It was big, Hank." Joe told him. "Bigger than all of us. I'm not going to say
the cliche but it's true. We're not gods. We can't control the weather."

"At least, not yet." said Kelly.

Everybody chuckled.

Nearby, a visiting R.N. Park Ranger Terri Blake and Morgan Wainwright
nursed like cappacinos.

Blake's face became rosy as she tried to find the good in all the bad.
"So, who did survive yesterday?"

"Yeah, how about that boy we worked on, doc." Gage asked Dr. Brackett.

Kel looked up from glass of ice water and lime. "What boy?"

Johnny looked a little incredulous, surprised. "That cardiac arrest case
that Cap, and I and Roy and Al and Ted worked after we dug him out of
that luggage conveyer belt."

"I'm sorry, Johnny. At the time, I had three arrest cases being called in
by radio. I just don't remember the details."

"Or an outcome?" Al asked, almost disgusted, deeply effected. "Doc,
that kid was special! I could feel it!" he insisted, angry.

Next to him, Rags Harris chilled him out by gripping his arm. "Easy, Martelli.
He's our guest."

Martelli immediately apologized. "I'm sorry, Dr. Brackett. I -- It's just that
I... really wanted to know how things turned out for Danny. You know what
I mean?"

Minisculely, Kel shook his head again that he didn't remember a Danny.

Terri Blake timidly asked. "Who's Danny? Someone from the incident?"

Al just closed his eyes.

Roy took in a deep breath as they all became very very thoughtful.
"You know, it's hard sometimes. Somebody asks if a boy made it.
Honestly, Terri, we truly... donít remember. Often we never can learn
how things turn out in the end. After we left the patient in the ER, or
unless a family member contacts us to thank us for our help, we never..
know... what becomes of the patient. And if they donít make it, well, then
we read about it in the obits just like everyone else. It feels like... turning the
TV off... fifteen minutes before the show is over."

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It was morning,... of the second day.

Sophie the dog yawned in shy playful nervousness as she stretch
bowed before the closed bunk room wing of the fire station.

Hallie eyed up Chris outside, as they left for a run to the coffee shop
for some refreshments.

"For six?" Green said, stopping Chris before he got out the keys to
his car.

"Well, yeah. They're all still sleeping, aren't they? I mean, who are
we to kick out our foster folk when there's really nothing much for
us to do at the airport except babysit a bunch of new construction
workers, hammering away."

"Huh." said Green, parking a butt cheek against his Mustang, GTE
with spoilers.

"Hey, I just polished that.."

"Polished what?" Hallie asked, still thinking.

"Uhhhh.. never mind." Chris said.

Green sighed. "You know. You're right. It's gonna take what? Six
months to almost a year to rebuild MacArthur Airport?"

"At least." Rorchek said empathetically.

Hallie looked suddenly worried. "Does that mean we're out of a job?"

Chris's happy mood about the beautiful day, evaporated.

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Inside the absolutely quiet and pitch black
sleeping wing, somebody's watch, was ticking.

The gang of 51's was rising out of long period of slumber
bordering on unconsciousness.

Marco spoke up sleepily. "Five bucks if you find that
noise and kill it..." he mumbled from underneath his pillow.

"Not even for two hundred!" said Cap. "Ignore it like you
ignore me about how many times you suffer KP duty in
a row each week, back at home." Hank hissed, rolling
back over to bury himself yet in another blanket.

"Cap," Marco said in a singsong protest. "That's not true."


The sounds of sheets irritating rustling, punctuated the silence.
"Well you never complain.." Stanley insisted.

"Should I?" Lopez asked.

"Yes!" Kelly barked.

Somewhere outside, Sophie agreed with him vocally, instantly,
with a single bark back.

Sighing, still troubled by his experience, Mike Stoker sat up
softly in his bed, just to think. But he couldn't think.

There was something other than the watch, making noise.

"Hey, guys? What is that? Their plumbing?" he wondered.

Chet sat up, too, sleepily scratching his head. He peered
about with sensitive eyes that reacted even with the lack of
any light in the room.  He looked right, seeing nothing out
of order.

Then he looked left.

"Hey..." he said. "Johnny's bed hasn't been slept in. It's still
made up." he yawned.

Lopez answered. "That's because he and that saucy redhead
pilot were up all night talking."

"Oh, yeah? Where are they? They weren't downstairs when I
went down earlier for a snack." Cap mumbled.

"I know where they are, guys." Roy said.

"Do tell. I'm stymied here." Kelly whined.

DeSoto just sighed. "In Confession."

"Where?"

"In . There ." Roy said, pointing to Joe's private bunk room.
"That's what they call it. A place where they talk when the office
seems a little too intimidating for disciplinary actions. Al told me
about it last night. Or was that yesterday?"

Muffled disturbances and high and low pitched
murmuring could be heard, becoming louder and louder.

Marco started snickering and the others chimed in.

All except Chet.

"Boy, sounds like they're having fun.." Cap yawned, bored.

"Having a real party.." Roy agreed, rolling back over to sleep.

"That's no party." said Stoker, smiling.

"It's not?" Kelly asked.

"NoOOOoo." said Cap. "G*d, are you dense."

Kelly was not enjoying being sleepy and grumpy.
"Well, how am I supposed to know what that is?
Sounds like war going on."

"Ah, Chet." Roy just nodded knowingly, as he smirked and re-rested
his head back down onto an elbow. "I'll think just leave that little
mystery, up to your overactive imagination."

Beyond the strictly confidential fire house door, buried in soft pillows,
in the buff,...with no blankets, Morgan and Johnny were the very picture,
of togetherness.

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FIN

Movie One, The Fire Within
Episode Fifty Two


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   The Fire Within
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