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"Not yet. But all are at risk I'm afraid.."
Dr. Brackett said. Then he changed the subject.
"Hank, are you seeing double or any flashes
of light, or anything abnormal? Ringing in the ears,
pain or headache? This is a pretty sizable
lump I'm feeling on the back of your head."

"No, doc. Nothing odd at all. I feel
basically fine.." he said. "Listen, doc.
Shouldn't you be with Lopez over there?
I'm nowhere near the invalid everyone
insists I'm to be.. . In fact, I should be
getting up to help YOU.." and he tried
to rise.

Brackett stopped him firmly.
"No. Stay. He's been seen, too.
You're my second to the last stop.
Gage's surgery to repair that carpal
artery, is next.."

Cap got through the rest of Kel's exam,
showing no remarkable deviations, but he
had trouble hiding a few sobs of frustration
and helplessness as he tried to get through
it without making a verbal sound.

Dr. Brackett pretended to tune out
the emotional weakness playing out
on Cap's face. "Think you need the
O2 some more?" Kel asked him.

"No.. Why don't you save it for somebody
else?" he said distractedly. "My head's clear
now.." Stanley said very quickly..
Then he lifted his HT. "Station Eight this is
Engine 51."

"Cap, what are you doing?" Chet said,
looking up from his wrapping more
dressings around Gage's hand.

Cap set his talkie momentarily onto
his stomach and he glared at Kelly
and said. "Stoker's got a right to
know about Lopez and what's
happening in here. It would be wrong
for us to keep him in the dark about
his condition.."

Kel raised inquiring eyes to Roy.

"Doc, Mike did have close contact with Cindy
over there, and I was near him also
a lot of the time, while we were treating
her. He might be a quarantine candidate.."
DeSoto said grimly.

Dr. Brackett replied. "Then Hank's right in
calling him in here.."

"D*mned right I am.. And I'm not liking
it that he's part of this whole nastiness
either.." Cap snapped.

Everyone froze when the HT responded
to Captain Stanley's earlier heads up.

##Go ahead, Station 51. You're up,
Hank? That's great news! I'll be sure
to tell my whole crew all abo-..##

"Ben, I know about the quarantine.."
Stanley said cutting him off. "So don't
try to buffer me with false enthusiasm.
Just send my man Stoker in here.
He's been pegged as a risk factor.."

There was a long pause on Stone's
end. Then a click. ##He's on his way
in.. He's been on your engine's
wash down preventative detail so
he's had no direct contact with
anyone else except those medical
casualties in your group..##

"Understood, Stone. Engine, 51. Out."
Cap said, and he laid his head back down,
clutching the HT as if holding it would
somehow get him out of the nightmare
he found himself locked inside.

Hank sighed as Dr. Brackett finished taking
his BP. "Take it easy.. I'll keep you up on
the latest developments, captain."

"Appreciate it, doc.."

Gil was just giving Kel the verbal rundown
on Johnny, with Gage adding footnotes,
when Mike Stoker appeared in the doorway.

His happy face that the earthquake hadn't
claimed more than a few buildings was
an image no one wanted to shatter.

But then someone, finally did........

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From:  Katherine Bird <>
Date:  Mon Oct 28, 2002  2:30 pm
Subject:  Reaching Out..

"Hey Mike," Chet called out as he carried
blood soaked dressings from Gage's hand
towards a medical waste bin. "Ever heard
of the old adage, 'From out of the frying
pan and into the flames?'


"Well, you're gonna wish you had
a life net to bail out onto for this one, pal.."
and he chucked his sodden bandages
into the trash can with an angry

"Kelly!" Cap admonished. "There are a
million different ways to break bad news
and only you could've picked the worst
way possible.."

"Cap, what's he talking about?" Stoker
said mildly..  "Stone sent me in here,
saying that I was to be a triage "go-for.."
he said, still clueless.  
Then he saw Marco's shirt open and
the gear for a pulmonary critical lying out
on his bed; the suctioning device,
the defibrillator, the running EKG monitor
and the unopened esophageal airway.
"He's going bad? Oh my g*d."  

And Stoker started over to him, pulling
off his fire gloves, thinking he had been
called to be a CPR standby for him.

"Don't go any nearer to Marco, Stoker.
And that's an order.." Dr. Brackett
said, stopping him. "I won't allow it."

Stoker pushed the doctor's hands away,
unthinking, but Kel again held him back.

Roy interceded verbally from where he
was raising the head of Marco's long board
up onto piled blankets to make breathing
come easier. The water had long soaked
into the sheets and only fast melting ice
remained around him. These Roy piled
into and under Marco's armpits.
"Mike, it's not what you think. Lopez
is-- He's not in danger of going out on us
here.  At least, not yet. What Dr. Brackett
means is that if you come nearer, you'll
be assuring a better chance of possibly
becoming sick. You of all of us, are
the least likely to have been exposed
so far. You're here because you were in
the yard earlier and because you were
side by side with me after I got Marco out."

Stoker's face fell and his angry look
completely blanched into one of shock.
"He's ill with something real bad?"
he gasped as he tried to digest the
horrid news.

Dr. Brackett let him go.
"I'm afraid so. It seems Marco recently
had a small cousin die from a fast acting
hemorrhagic fever type infection that's
completely unknown to the Center for
Disease Control in Atlanta.
We're guessing your coworker contracted
that same illness after attending the
boy's funeral last week in Mexico.
We find that he's exhibiting a massive
systemic deterioration that is following
a similar pattern to the one the boy suffered
during the course of the disease."

"He's going to die?" Mike said.

"Not if we can help it."

Stoker's haunted eyes flicked from Roy's
to Cap's and back to Kel's and
he fell speechless.

It was Johnny who addressed Stoker's
stunned silence. "Mike, Dr. Brackett's
fully loaded with equipment. And the
CDC's going to be here any hour to
help us sort out all this mess. Marco
didn't get sick until almost a week
had passed following that funeral.
So it'll be a while before any of us comes
down with it. We have time on our side."

He knew he had missed his mark entirely
when Stoker erupted in uncharacteristic
"Yeah?! Tell me another story.
Marco may not even HAVE that Johnny!"
Stoker said. "Why else would you be set
up for an imminent crash?" he said throwing
a hand out to Marco's equipment thick bed.
"I'm not quiet because I'm thinking about
myself here.." he snapped. "So spare me
your platitudes..!"

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"Hey.. Now losing our heads isn't going
to solve the prob--!..." Cap said, shouting.
He immediately cut off for his yell had
made his head shoot pain all the way
down to his toes and he winced with a
strangling gurgle, that was almost a sob.

Captain Stanley covered his face with his
hands, in a vain attempt to gain control.

That made Dr. Brackett narrow his eyes
in new concern and he moved over to Hank's
wire stretcher to speak quietly with him
for a moment about it.
Cap's inadvertant cry had cooled his arguing
crew's fire better than any withering "Cap"
lecture ever could. All of them were
cowed and silently they all got to work
preparing and setting up everything they
would need to preserve the ordered

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