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Within Sight
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        Page  Eleven

Then there was no more time for words.
Both medics lost themselves in the care
of their victims and soon, Mike was
tuned out altogether.

"Oh, Jeremy..." Mike fretted. Then, on a
thought, he whistled.

Boot came running, instantly.

Pulling a lead from his pants pocket, Mike
attached it to his collar and he turned his
bandaged eyes towards the burning building.
"Boot...." he said, taking a tight grip on the
leash.. "Seek. Find him. He's in the fire.."

Boot dashed forward, pulling Mike effortlessly
with him.

Stoker counted on the dust and smoke from
the fire and the cover of night to conceal his
entry into the building fire.

His gamble worked. No one saw him go inside.

"Boot!" he coughed. "Find him.. Upstairs.."

Loud crackles from the burning timbers and
their self destruction's rumble guided Mike
on where not to step. He relied on the feel of
Boot's leash on his arm to point out
the safest way.

Mike slowly became aware of an intense
almost surrealistic bright orange glow.
::The fire. I can see it!:: Stoker began to claw
off his eye wraps as Boot led him deeper into
the open garage and to the stairwell. He whined
to his left suddenly and immediately turned away.

Mike covered his nose. He knew the smell of
a charred body when he encountered one.
"oh, please, no.." he sighed.

But Boot was still pulling him strongly onwards.
::Maybe that corpse back there, was the arsonist.::

Stoker's spirits raised. "I am in so much trouble.."
he mumbled.

The last of the bandages fell away and the
bright stabbing orange light pierced deep into
his retinas, making his barely healed eyes, water.
"This light..My G*d.  It's bright enough for me
to see by!"

Soon, he was wiping away the tears as perfectly
clear, fire illuminated vision returned."Boot, double
time.." he ordered.

His shoe hit the first stair.

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By some miracle, the front wall's collapse
hadn't crushed the stairwell and its bulk had
snuffed out a great deal of the fire in
that area. Mike followed Boot into the
blackness at the top, where Stoker froze
in his tracks. Bright sparklets of light
lanced into his field of vision. ::Deprivation.
I still don't have my night vision back. I'm gonna
have to go back or risk getting trapped up here.::

But Boot's leash went tell-taley slack and
Mike heard Boot begin to bark frantically
from just ahead of him.

Stoker reached out and his hand struck
the hard metal coils of a gutted bunk ..
and..a leg..


A small boy's moan greeted him.

Mike wasted no time and he gathered up the
boy into his arms and then slid him head first
over a shoulder. Then Mike said, "Boot. Out. Go
outside. Go..go.. go.."

Stoker's fear lessened when the bright glow
of the main fire granted him sight once more.

Near the outer door, Mike was met by an angry
team of county firefighters. "Hey.. just what
the h*ll do you think you're doing??" one of them
shouted through his airmask.

"Take him.. Sorry. I'm with 51's. I heard
him calling for help." he lied. "I'm Mike Stoker."

"Yeah, I know who you are.." said the bigger
one. "Is he breathing?"


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Mike let the firemen take Jeremy and used the same
route he had taken before with Boot to return to
the fireline.  As he walked away from the fire,
Mike was amazed to find that his watery
vision didn't entirely disappear. In fact, as the
chill air cooled him, it got better.

The first clear sight he saw, was Chet,
sweating over the chem panel on the engine.
And then he saw the night stars.

Smiling, Stoker reached down and petted
Boot's sooty back in sheer joy. "Good dog..
good dog.... What a way to work.. Good

As Mike suspected, no one else knew what he had
done. The two men from 127 who had dropped
off Jeremy near the squad, had been, luckily,
mutually decided to hustle back to their fire detail
instead of reporting Stoker to anyone.

Mike released Boot from his lead and whispered.
"Go to Cap, boy.. Move it.."

He watched the valiant dog rejoin Hank at full tilt.

Then he knelt down quietly by Johnny, who was
working on Victoria, who was just coming to.
"Relax, Vic." Mike soothed. "Your bump doesn't
...look... too bad."

That made Gage glance up from the BP he
was taking on her. Johnny did a double take
when he saw that Mike was bandage-less..
and seeing..

"Mike!" he said happily. "You can see.."
Then Gage's face flickered between watchfulness
over Vic's changing status and curiosity over
Mike's. "Hang- hang on there. I'll be right with

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"No rush.. I feel fine."

"You sure?"


"No flashes or..spots ..or anything like that?"


"Ok.  Good... All right....." Gage forced himself
to stop staring at the relieved tears flowing
unabashed down Mike's face. "Listen, Mike.. uh,
I'm dying of curiosity to see how the boy's doing.
Could you go over there and just ..  you know
check on him for me? It's bugging me 'cause Roy
hasn't said much about him yet."

Stoker patted Johnny on the shoulder, "Gladly."

As Mike crossed the short distance
to where Ben and Roy and Jeremy were,
he dried his cheeks on a sleeve.

Then he couldn't resist.
"Nice guage work, Chet.... Looks your psi
pressure's perfect..."

Mike ambled nonchalantly on past him. Kelly
just about did arabian handsprings at the sight
of Mike walking, free of Boot, eagle eyeing
everything around him.

"WahhhHHhooooo Stoker.. All rightt!!!!  Man, this
is great.. Your eyes are-- Wait a minute, why
am I cheering? I'm gonna get demoted now.."

"You can live with it.."

"Just as long as you can, pal.." Kelly fired back.
"I'm beginning to fall in love with this job, Stoker.
I may test out with ya in the fall. May the best
man win.... WahhhhHHHhhoooo." he howled

This time half a dozen firefighters rubber necked
in their direction and Mike only shrugged, making
crazy signs with a finger circling his ear and then
a hooking thumb at Kelly, when Chet wasn't looking.

Mercifully, Chet never caught on to why the
other men were laughing.

Mike Stoker entered the place where the triage
lights had been set up above Roy and his victims.

He approached his coworker, keen on surprising
him with his Lazarus back from the blind
routine when something about DeSoto's body
english stopped him.

He set a hand on Roy's shoulder. "Roy, how's
Jeremy doing?"

Roy looked up and reacted pretty much as
Johnny had about his eyes. But Stoker
never saw it.

His eyes were locked on Jeremy's face.

The boy was pink, breathing well under an 02 mask,
and his skin was mercifully whole.

But two hideous sockets existed where
the boy's eyes had once been. They
had completely boiled away from the heat
of the burning fire.

DeSoto heard Stoker's gasp of horror.
"Mike, he's not in any pain. I've given him a
pain med. But, I'm afraid he'll never s--"
and DeSoto's voice broke. " see.. again.."
He studied his hands and the spent MS syringe
resting there without being aware of it.

"Not ever?"

Roy slowly shook his head without meeting
his eyes.

Stoker's face filled with salty wetness and
he bent low over his favorite project kid's
drugged form, and cried until the ambulance

Old Ben, seated on the squad's bumper in
a cannula and blanket, set a bandaged
hand on Mike's shoulder in wordless

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It was another perfect sunny summer day at
the McGregor ballpark and Mike Stoker and
Victoria and Susan Jordan and Maxilliam
and Old Ben were at their usual places around
the diamond.

Jeremy Conners was sitting on Mike Stoker's
lap getting a verbal play by play of the game,
directly from his favorite coach.

"Hey Coach.." Jeremy said, sucking on his
popsicle and scratching an itch under his eye

"Yeah, Champ?"

"Are you sure the guys aren't missing Boot
at all? I mean he makes a swell guide dog and
stuff, but Boot's a fireman just like d--"
his voice trailed away.

"Yeah, he is a pretty good one. " Mike studied
Jeremy's hanging head. "It's ok. It's all right to
be sad about your father and what happened to
that old firehouse. But that's the funny thing
about living. Life always changes. And there's
nothing in the world we can do about it...

Jeremy's face cracked a smile and he lifted a hand
full of slender sticks.  "...except throw popsicles
sticks at it.. Yyeeahhhhhhhh!" and the red haired
boy crowed at the top of his lungs, hurtling
his wooden missiles down on the players below.

He started to laugh when Tiny and Cruz,
standing near the bleachers, complained
verbally about the rain of litter landing on

But, to themselves, the project kids made it
a point not to grumble too much.

Mike and Victoria, on either side of the happy
little boy, smiled broadly at Jeremy, muttering in
conspiracy about what they could throw next.

And behind his back, the two adults timidly
joined affectionate hands.

Not missing a beat, Victoria spoke up.
"Don't fret about the guys missing Boot, Jer.
Because Boot's a free spirit. He wouldn't've stayed
at 51's for long anyway. He always gravitates to those
who need him the most Mike tells me. And you
certainly fit his bill young man.."

Jeremy giggled when she tickled his nose.

She went on with a small smile.
"Nah, I think Boot the wanderer's finally
found a home.."

"You know what, guys?" Jeremy asked,
angling his head up.

"What..?" Both Mike Stoker and Victoria asked

"I think I'm finally home, too. "


                              FIN       :)

      Season One, Episode Four-  Within Sight


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