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Captain Stanley continued. "Your cousin didn't
go from some fluke fever, Marco. He was ill
with something..." he sighed heavily.
"..with something no one's ever seen before.."

Lopez paled. "And now I got it? And the rest of

Cap just nodded. "It's a very real possibility
that we've all been exposed. The docs
here from Atlanta are working on the problem,
even now, right here in the station.."
he said, trying to smile. "Shouldn't be too
long before they pull a couch or two out
of the housefire."

"I'm going to die?" Marco asked.

Brice immediately replied. "No. It hasn't
been confirmed what illness you have.
So far, you've just a fever, and some
fluid in your chest and a skin rash. Nothing
we can't handle.."

Marco blinked.  "Craig? But you're working
for eight. Your station's here?"

"Yes, Captain Stone is right outside, running
triage operations, with Cap here." he said.
"Couldn't resist the call to dig out a couple
of fire engines from their own garage, know
what I mean? Had to save Cap here some
face somehow.."

Captain Stanley hefted his HT to encourage
Marco that it was true.

Lopez didn't say anything, and he just blinked
at the ceiling, the nightmare still not yet

Roy spoke up. "We're doing everything we
can here, Marco. We're just under a temporary
quarantine until we get some answers. And
we've turned it into a regular campout.." he
grinned. "Look, soup stove and everything."

It faded when Marco's eyes filled and he began
to sob softly.

Roy went on. "I know things sound bad. And
Cap and I know how you feel. It feels like everything
all around you has..kinda been turned upside down
and it's not a pretty picture to be waking up to.
But know that we're in this together, Marco.
A firecrew never abandons one of their own."

"You got that right.." Cap agreed.

"There's two very very good doctors here,
a Steven Taylor and a Jamie MacPherson.
And Dr. Brackett's been telling us that they are
simply the best of the best in their field.
I wouldn't be surprised if they...wrapped up
things here in just a couple of days.."

"But what about my family in Mexico? Are
they still safe?" Lopez asked, angrily wiping
away tears.

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"Yes. Bernardo's mother is ill but holding her
own. But there are seven down there with
the same symptoms as Bernardo's.."
Roy replied. Then he looked down, fussing
with an IV that didn't need attention. "And..

"So why didn't you bail out when you could
everyone?" Marco said, his frustration and
anger building and he pegged them all
with a viscious glare.

"Marco. Calm down.." Cap said.

But Lopez wouldn't listen. "I tried to! Only
I wasn't running for the kids when the bricks
started falling down all around me.. I just
ran for the door.. Yes, that's what I did.."
he sobbed. "Some hero, huh.?"

Stanley sharply told him. "Lopez. Stop. Getting
into self pity isn't going to solve--"

"Don't you see, Cap?.. I ran! I'm sure you
guys were real puzzled why I was in the kitchen
instead of the garage with them." he cried,
his eyes blinded by frightened tears. "And I
wish to G*d I could be running away from
all this right now..." he whispered. "Oh,
Bernardo!... Oh, Mama!... I'm sorry.. I'm so..
sorry...Lo ciento por su dolor y herido.."
and he started to cry in heaving choking
sobs of grief and shock.

Cap hugged him, and held him tightly as
Marco finally gave in completely to his
terror and fear. "Lopez. It's all right. We're
here. And we won't be leaving you pal.
Not by a long shot.."

"I want to die.. I want to die.. Oh, Bernardo...."
Marco's sobs died away.

At his silence, Chet moved forward.
"He's out again?" Kelly asked with alarm,
swallowing.. He helped Cap lower him
slowly back down again onto the longboard.

Roy looked at the EKG and took a pulse.
"No. Just sleeping. "

"What was wrong with him? I mean, I- I've never
seen Marco act that way, Roy.."

DeSoto met Chet's eyes. "Its nothing. He's a little
raw partly because of the fever, and the
diazepam, and most likely, from some inner feelings
he's been suppressing ever since his cousin's
funeral. Not the first time someone's buried family
and then not reacted to it until weeks later..
He'll be better emotionally after a good nap."

Johnny piped up. "Yeah, Chet. He's a human
being, so give him some slack.."

"I am. I am.. It was just a little frightening seeing
him come unraveled like that."

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