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Image of royjohnnyropesmountainclimb.jpg
        From Loaves To Fishes
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               Page Two

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"Just find that first aid pack we theorized
about earlier.." Roy mumbled as he
got a better grip on his patient's
face and nose. Desoto retreated back into
the shelter of his air mask, coughing.
But immediately, he shared his tidal
store in yet another breath for the very
pale young man stretched out beneath

"Joe?" Gage asked as he pivoted in the
silver haired man's direction.  He didn't like the color
change occuring in the older maintenance man's
cheeks. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah.. yeah.. uh, one of the ranger boys,....
you know the sierra wilderness types from
110's? ..they left a pretty good one behind for
us for just this kind of medical emergency
happening in the tunnel.."

"Where is it? Are you all right? You look
like you're gonna faint." Johnny said, keeping
one glove on Roy's back, the other on Joe's

"I-I'm fine. I just know Benny's mother. That's
all. If he dies, I'm the only one who's a friend
enough to break the news. Know what I mean?"
Joe shuddered, absently bumping his fingers
against his faceplate, trying to rub his forehead.

"The kit, Joe.." John ordered. "We need it."

"Oh, uh huh. right. It's right there, John. Under
the supe's desk in the corner. But don't we gotta
get Benny to a doctor? You two are just firemen.
And with him not breathin and all, it's gettin real
scary..real fast!" he said, his voice rising higher
in panic. "Let's just carry him outta here. Come
on, I'll do it. I'm bigger than the both of ya. So
just tell your buddy ta move out of the way.." Then
Joe actually tried to lift Benny up into an arm carry
to remove him from under Roy's hands.

Gage snatched him away from the desk quickly.
"Joe! What the h*ll do you think you're doing?!
Benny's better off right where he is where we
can deal effectively with his hypoxia. Just go
get the bag."

"But..." the balding man sputtered through
his mask.

"It's ok.." Johnny qualified. "We're paramedic
firefighters. We can treat him right here. Enough to
stabilize him. Then we can think about figuring out a
way to get us all out of here. Until Benny's condition
falls one way or another, we're staying put!"

Clunk!  The big blue bag full of medical supplies
landed in Gage's lap.  Johnny's pen light found
his teeth as he dug through it to the bottom using
its meager beam. "This is heavy Roy, I'll just bet that
it has--" a clanging sound greeting his ears as his
questing fingers found a fair sized oxygen cylinder
and a valve wrench tethered on a chain. "..Yep.
O2."  He snatched it out and set up its demand
valve, replete with a hard black rubber face mask.
"Here. I got an oral out, too." And Gage gave Roy
the two pieces of equipment. "Joe, go get my
partner a new air tank. That one's getting too low."

Roy gratefully let Joe slide the new scba mask
back over his head and face, coughing thickly
as the clean air slowly washed away the strongest
chlorine fumes he had been suffering eyewise.
He shook his head to shake the face plate into
place vigorously around his temples.

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All the while, his hands never missed delivering a
breath to Benny using the new positive pressure
apparatus they had found.

"Roy?" Johnny asked, checking out the breathless
man's eyes with his light for their responses.

"I've still got a bounding carotid on him."

"Thanks for the update. But I was asking about
you. How're your eyes? And your chest?" Gage
said wrapping a bp cuff over Benny's near arm.

"Both'll pass with a push.." Roy said, his voice
starting to grow hoarse and cracky. "I don't think
I got a whole lotta chlorine."

"Once we get Benny going again, you're gonna
grab some of that 02." Johnny said firmly no

"We'll see. So far, he's deserving all of it."
Roy rasped.

"Step it up then and turn him around, so you
guys can share.." Gage quipped half serious.

Gage leaned into Joe and whispered to him
out of the corner of his mouth so Roy wouldn't
hear him. "Joe.. go stand by Roy and light up
his face a little. I wanna see his color."

Joe rose, smiling, but Johnny stopped him with
a tight grip. "Do it subtlely or I'll never hear the
end of it.." he hissed.

Joe nodded, his earlier panicky reactions
finally easing down a little. He moved around
the desk to the other side. At Roy's curious
glance up at him, Joe remarked, "I wanna
see what yer doing.." And he casually aimed
the flashlight's rays down on Roy's hands
so that its icy white backwash lit up his features.

Johnny's eyes flickered up from the breath
sounds, to which he was listening, up to
Roy's features and back down again  
in a crafty scan. He feigned being interested
in searching for burns on Benny's bare chest
as he asked. "Since when did you start hiding
the fact that you've got a couple of broken ribs,

Desoto looked up in surprise, and the sudden
motion made him wince. "How'd you know?"

"Oh.." Johnny said matter of factly, continuing his
secondary survey down Benny's pelvis and legs,
"I kinda knew when I threw Benny here onto your
back to get him away from the chlorine containers.
You were favoring his weight on your good side. I also  
noticed you were double timing your mouth to mouth
to make up for your shortness of breath and now you got
a bit of cyanosis starting up on both your lips that's not
from any kind of chilling cause it's not cold in here. Far
from. " Johnny tilted his head in question.
"Which ones did ya crack clear through, Roy?"

Roy stopped concealing his hunched over posture.
"Floating ribs, left side, bottom three." he sighed

"Did they get into your spleen?"

"Don't know yet. My shoulders hurt but I think it's
from wearing this scba gear for so long. Doesn't
feel like I've got any real kind of belly pain yet." Roy

Joe frowned. "Say, ah.. how'd uh.. how did he get
hurt so bad?"

Johnny and Roy both exchanged knowing looks.

Gage was the one who broke the news.
"Uh, we were forced to retreat inside from a fuel
fire at the tunnel entrance when a rock slide
took us by surprise.. Here, gimme that Roy,
I'll take over breathing for him. Take a break."

Joe paled even more and sat down on his rump
into a nearby chair. "You mean we're sealed
in here with that raging inferno out there threatening
to burn the cement wall in right through to us?"

Roy gingerly set aside the over coat he had peeled
off. His scba tank was nestled in between his
knees. He looked almost comical wearing
just the face gear in a blue paramedic's shirt that was
torn and ripped in a dozen places from the fall he had
taken. "That's putting it in a nutshell.." he grimaced,
feeling out the painful locations of his own rib breaks.

Johnny was quick to optimism,, "Uh, that's if we can't find
another way outta here." Gage glared at Roy.. Then he
snapped rapidly into a sham of counseling charm.
"Joe, there is another way out of here.." he prompted.
"Almost has to be. This is one h*lluva big mountain.
Right, Benny?!" he added shouting into the young man's ear.
An answering stomach belch from his artificial respiration
came out in reply.  "Good boy.." Johnny said, patting the
unresponsive man's face. He had done so to break Mr.
Dawson out of his bystander funk as much as to test
for any telltale responsiveness in Benny.

Joe's eyes stopped glassing over in emotional shock
and he actually stifled a smirk over the odd humored
joke Johnny shared about his coworker. "Yeah, there's bunches
of ways outta here. What does the D.O.T. look like? We're far
from being a bunch of numb skulls. We built plenty of bolt
holes into this monstrosity.." he said expansively waving his
hands up at the tunnel's infrastructure arching all around them.

"Which way to the nearest?" Roy buzzed hoarsely, barely
loud enough to be heard through his air mask.

"Down fifty meters south, right fork, three doors on
your right, then up the stairwell to the plateau overlooking
the valley. It's the same route we take every month. It
leads up to the radio tower." Joe rattled off.

Roy smiled. "We could sure use clean line of sight. Our
HTs aren't working down here." he said.

Joe's eyes got bigger and he sat up straighter in his
chair. "Well why didn't you tell me before that your
radio jobbies weren't functioning. We gotta phone
right here." And he opened up the drawer to the left
of Johnny's knee, displaying a red emergency colored
hand receiver phone that had been stuffed into it. "We use
this to report any newly sparked forest fires while we're
working the span. The boss says it connects with a fire
chief or someone like that, down in the city."

Gage sighed.

And so did Benny.

Johnny's face popped wide open. "Benny?"
he said, lifting the demand valve away. "Can
you hear me?" he asked. He slid his hands out
of the way just in time to see Benny spit out
the oral airway that was gagging him.

Roy saw that he didn't need to be tipped over
for nausea. "Benny?"

The young man groaned at the sting of chlorine
fumes he started feeling in his eyes, nose and mouth
while Johnny quickly strapped Benny's scba gear
back on him with one change; he stuffed a balled
nasal cannula line inside the young man's mask,
leaving it in a knot under the man's nose, set to a
light flow, as a breathing booster. Johnny watched
as Benny lapsed into an adequately respiring but
unconscious stupor similar to the state that he had
been in when they had first found him. Johnny
reinserted another oral airway carefully to avoid

Gage fitted the demand valve's working end
to a new feeder mask and handed it out instantly to
Roy. "Start clearing your chest out, partner. Looks like
we've quite a hike coming up real soon." Johnny

He picked up the landline phone to contact L.A.
::I've waited a long time to relay our status
in to Rampart and the firecrews still working on the
fuel truck. Cap's gonna smile bigger than the whole
state of California when he hears from us.::
he smirked.

He winked at Joe Dawson and was very happy to
see the older man relaxed enough himself to wink

Unknown to all of them, the hissing from above,
grew louder.


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From: "Cassidy Meyers" <>
Subject: Deliverance..
Date:  Tue May 25, 2004  8:48 pm - 2048 (PDT)

"How's Benny doing, John?" asked Joe Dawson.
"He- he-he.. still looks kinda sick ."

Johnny Gage rechecked the amount of oxygen
left in the ranger's tank by reading the valve by
penlight as he said. "Well.. he was awake
enough to feel us fussing with his face and fight the
airway for a bit. That's a good sign. It'll be
up to Rampart Hospital to decide whether or not
he'll come down with complications once we get him
to our docs there by helicopter. I'll be on the line with
one of them in just a minute or so." he nodded.  

Joe's dirty face beamed. "Outta sight."

Roy coughed, splinting his side with an elbow to
ease the pain as his ribs protested.
He couldn't quite hide the new agony.

Gage looked up. "That reminds me. " he said,
shouting through his SCBA gear. He held up an
incriminating finger at DeSoto. "You're victim number
two, pally. Get a vitals set on yourself..." he ordered,
peering at Roy's face in analysis. "Or... I can do it if
you think you're too laid up to manage."

"I'll manage. Just talk.." Roy said hoarsely. "The
O2's working." he said, taking in another shot of
oxygen from the positive pressure valve. "My
head's clearing now and there's no more blue here."
he said waving a few fingernails under the torchlight
in his lap. "My ribs aren't flailed."

Gage squinted, appraising Roy for a long moment
and DeSoto was smart enough not to look away.

Johnny saw that the vitality in his partner's eyes
remained steady and unwavering. "Ok. The job's

The indian paramedic turned his pointing arm towards
Dawson. "How about you? Any knocks, bumps I should
know about that you didn't share earlier?" he asked. The
tone in his voice held a partially serious jest at Roy for
doing the same sin.

Roy rolled his eyes, unamused, and didn't rise to the bait
as he began shifting in his chair to get comfortable
enough to take a BP reading on himself.

"Pick up the phone, Mr. Gage, and call us in. Your
casualty number gonna be only two.." Joe said
defiantly, holding up that count  before Johnny's face
and shaking it. "I'll be watching Benny for ya so
your partner can rest."

The rugged tunnel man sat down in the desk chair by
Benny's head to check the young man's mask's seal around
Gage's jury rigging and he began staring at the shallow
rise and fall of Benny's chest to pointedly ignore Gage,
ending the discussion.

Gage was satisfied. He picked up the red landline.
"This is Squad 51 of the Los Angeles County
Fire Department. Emergency. I've updated fire
information with two people injured in this tunnel's
operations base." he shouted loud enough for
his voice to carry into the phone through his face

The voice on the other end rapidly acknowledged
Johnny's call sign and he was immediately patched
through to L.A. and onto Rampart Hospital once he
had relayed enough information to the fire dispatcher
to tell Cap and Batallion 14 of their status. Gage
heard the call frequency click into a familiar mode
as it rang the red wall phone near Dixie McCall's
emergency desk.

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The furry voiced RN looked up in surprise
from a coffee mug when the rare critical use
line began ringing. She padded over and hefted
the phone's receiver. "Rampart Emergency."
She cocked her head as she listened closely
as she recognized Johnny's voice. " Johnny!
Are you four in a safe location?  Is there anything
you need me to tell the chief out there?... Ok. ..ok.
Got it. Now, what do you have? I'm set here." she
said snatching up a pencil and pad for note taking.

As she did so, she flagged down an orderly to
go fetch the nearest doctor to report to the call.


Johnny bent down to his note pad under penlight
and read his data.

"Dixie, it's chlorine gas on both victims one and two.
Victim One is an unconscious male who's approximately
nineteen years of age. He was briefly respiratory arrested
but now he's breathing on 6 L's of O2 via SCBA. No trauma.
Vitals are : BP 88/64, pulse 120, respirations are 22 and his
lungs are wet on both sides. No signs of aspiration.
Victim Two. It's Roy, and he's got possible fractures of all the
lower left lateral floating ribs, sustained in a fall. He denies
lung or abdominal involvement but he's showing a strong positive
for crepitus.  Dix's he's been oriented times four throughout
and he's now on fifteen liters O2. He's dealing with some upper
pulmonary tract swelling that also seems to be effecting
his throat and larynx. I'd say his exposure was around two
minutes despite having tanked air. He had to do some
resuscitation. Victim One's duration with the chlorine is
unknown.  Roy's vitals are : 120/74, pulse 90 and respirations
are shallow due to pain. Color is now good on
both. Uh,, just a side note, we've only rudimentary gear, a
ranger's pack, basic life."


Dixie studied her note pad, writing furiously as Johnny
talked into the red receiver cocked on her shoulder.
"10-4, Johnny. Hold on, Joe's here."

Dr. Early peered over Dixie's back as he took
the phone, reading. "Johnny. How bad's the fire?
Are you going to be able to extricate yourselves
soon? The faster you're all out of that gas, the better I'll
feel." he said, chewing on his pencil.

##Soon, doc. A man with us knows a safe way
out. We'll carry the young man out on a door if
we have to. He and I can manage ok and Roy's

Joe Early nodded, despite of only being tied to the
paramedic through a telephone wire. "If you
can, get a good look in your medical pack.
If it's a standard forest rescue ranger's bag,
it should have IV's and a bee sting kit inside.
Use that kit's epinephrine on the teenager. Give
him 1 mg. IV push of that if it's 1/10,000, into an IV
of normal saline, then set it TKO. It may bring him
around enough to stabilize him for the trip out."

For Roy, if you need to, 5 mg's MS, IM. The bag
oughta have that, too. I know the head ranger
on that mountain who's a paramedic.  Make
sure Roy drinks nothing by mouth. Not until he's
evaluated. Chlorine turns to hydrochloric acid in the
mucosal tissues when exposed to even a slight amount
of water so be aware of that and watch for signs of
choking. It may develop fast in both your victims. Watch
your step around any fire hoses, too. Water fog
may be enough to cause further burns in the lungs
because of the chlorine sitting in them."

Joe rubbed his lips. "Oh, and be sure to take out
all of your loose pocket change." he added with a
slight grin of embarrassment.

Dixie was only puzzled.

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"Pocket change?" Roy coughed. He was near
enough to be able to hear the voice on the other
end of the phone.

Gage shushed him as Joe Early elaborated, his
quiet calm voice filling the dark smoky circle
of space around all four men. The flashlight set
on the table between them fizzled fitfully as
it struggled to stay lit in the smoke.

The paramedics and Joe Dawson hung on Early's
every word.

##I've had people before stuck in a chlorine cloud.
With a hidden complication. ## the doc
went on. ##The chlorine grew concentrated enough on the
scene to cause the copper in the pennies in their jeans
to spontaneously ignite their clothes. So get rid of your
coins or risk getting a hot seat. Literally. Silver change
suffers the same effect. Only they go off later on.
So get rid of those, too.##

Joe Dawson hastily flung his vending machine money
away into the darkness. Where they landed on the floor,
little fires popped and erupted as their substance burned
under the layer of green chlorine hanging over the floor.

Hastily, Joe got Benny's pockets cleared, too.

And Roy and Johnny rapidly did the same self
purging. They all flinched when the coins rolling
around them, caught flame and melted in noisy
tiny explosions.

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Gage sighed in relief.
"We're ok, doc. That was very good advice. Thanks."

##No problem. Let me know updates at the slightest
changes as you go topside when your walkie talkies
start working again, ok? ##

"10-4, doc." And Gage repeated his medical orders
back to Dr. Early quickly.

##Good luck.## Joe said, and the phone in Johnny's
hand clicked off.

Gage quipped. "That Doctor Early,.. He's a regular
007, you know that.. exploding pocket change.. Geesh."
Then on a thought. "Say,.. I could have a little fun
for the future knowing that. Next time Chet and I are
in a chlorine spill, I think I'm not gonna warn him."
He bent with industry to get his IV, laced with epi,
going on Benny.

Joe Dawson split a gut.

Roy found a second bee kit, smiling.
"There's more than one of these."

"Good. Put your name on it. If you get yourself
wet, you're gonna need it." Johnny said seriously. "Man,
first I've ever heard. Firemen avoiding water vapor like
the plague. I wonder if Cap knows about it."

"I'm sure he does.." Roy chuckled, his laryngitis
staying thick. He wrapped up the O2 and put it away
for later use into the blue medical bag and put back on
his air mask. "We're under extenuating circumstances.
Normally, we aren't stuck under a chlorine gas cloud
for long enough periods to worry about it. And any
wash downs conducted are always done under safe air
conditions so no dangerous amounts of acid are ever
formed enough before they're washed away entirely."

"Yeah, but it's still weird. Being temporarily allergic
to water.." Gage snorted.

"If you can put it that way.." Roy agreed. "The allegory
fits. In a sense, Benny and I ARE sensitive for the time

"Ok.." Joe said suddenly. "Does your sweat count as water?
If it does, I'm not waiting around to find out the effects.
Benny, let's go." and he picked up the young man into
his arms. "I'm moving us out. Now." he said firmly
as he grabbed the boy's air tank from the floor as well,
and slung it over his shoulder around them both.

DeSoto hastily handed the older worker the IV bag
Gage had begun on Benny while Johnny snatched
up the blue bag quickly to keep the man from
ripping the oxygen tubing off the cylinder inside.
"Slow down! Don't pull out Benny's oxygen!"
Johnny said. "Joe! Roy can't move that fast."

"Yes I can.." Roy said, painfully rising from the

"Oh. Uh. Ok. Guess that means you can give yourself
your own morphine. Here." Johnny said, handing over
the capped syringe to his partner with his one free hand.

Then he was yanked away by the stretched cannula
tubing between Joe, Benny and the ranger bag, into
the darkness.

DeSoto shook his head, amused even in crisis
as he rolled up his turnout sleeve as he walked to
inject himself into the meaty part of his forearm.

He shuddered when the metal needle from the injection
tube evaporated into flame as it hit the floor after
he was finished.

The four men moved down the dark cracked
tunnel, comforted only by the small nimbus of
torchlight as it swirled in the chlorine around
their ankles.

They reached a junction where the ceiling hissing
was louder.

"Uh oh. That's water I'll bet." Joe said, pointing
upwards. "That d*mned chlorine's eating all
the pipes!"

"Oh, I get it, acid baths for everyone.." Gage said
sarcastically. "Those pipes copper?"

"Don't ask.." Joe said, gently cradling the comatose
Benny a little more protectively in his arms.

They walked a little faster past the area.

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Joe paused in the darkness. "Here. There's
a stairwell."

"How far up?" Gage wanted to know.

"Again... D--"

"Don't ask.." Roy parroted simultaneously,
smiling grimly.

Joe opened the door into the landing
and looked up.

Right then, the pipes in the ceiling gave way
and let loose a flood of water.

The older man and Johnny leaped into
the safety of the stairwell but Roy was a
little slower because of his injury and medication
and got water onto his arm as he jumped.

The forearm on his turnout began to smoke
from newly formed hydrochloric acid.

"Ahhh!" and he pulled his arm up out
of his sleeve and inside his jacket,
while Johnny pulled the acid singed
material away from Roy's body with
his coat halligan. "Joe! Close the door
behind us. Roy, don't move! I got it!"

DeSoto froze in place where he lay sprawled
on the concrete steps, breathing painfully
in high pitched wheezes of panic as he
remained still and watched his jacket
bubble and steam.

Johnny reached into the ranger bag and
pulled out some clothes shears. Ruthlessly,
he cut off the smoking sleeve and it dropped
to the ground. Then he knelt, cupping his
hands around Roy's face plate, "You ok?
Roy? I got it off. Can you still breathe ok?"

For several numbing seconds, Roy couldn't
reply. Then his helmeted masked head nodded.
"It didn't get to me. And my mask kept out
the water vapor."

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Joe Dawson reported out loud, too. "Benny's
still ok. He's breathing the same."

Gage, didn't doubt the man, but placed a hand on
the teenager's stomach anyway subconsciously
in a check. "We were lucky." he panted.
"Come on. Let's get to the top. Joe, if you get
tired. We'll trade. I may be scrawny, but I'm strong.
I can carry Benny.."

"You just go right on playing bellhop. I'm doing fine."
Joe said, barging past the two paramedics. He
started climbing the stairs strongly. "I can carry
him all day if I have to. I owe it to him and his
ma to do my absolute best." his voice echoed.
He turned around and just waited for the other
two to catch up to him.

Johnny Gage gave Roy DeSoto a hand up from
where he curled on the floor. "Wow. With devotion
like that, I'm surprised you never joined the
fire department, Dawson." he said.

"Not enough pay.." spat the older man.

"Really?" Gage said, stopping in his tracks.

"Yeah.." Roy gasped. Then he staggered.

"Roy?" Johnny startled, grabbing him.

"I'm ok, it's just the morphine."

"You sure about that?"

"Yeah. I'm not shocky. Come on, let's
go." Roy insisted. "Benny can't be delayed and
it's gonna take a while for any help to get to
us once we're out on the mountain. It's
probably getting dark already." he coughed,
and immediately doubled over in pain.

Hefting the blue bag and its precious tether
of oxygen from Benny a little higher on his shoulder,
Johnny pulled Roy's still sleeved arm over his
neck. "Easy. Don't drop your head like that, you're gonna
make yourself black out. Now take a big breath.
That's it. Ready? Ok. Up. First this stair. That's it.
Now the next. Roy, pick your right leg up a little
higher. Ok, now you're doing it. Good."

Slowly, the four men made their way up out
of the heart of the burning tunnel and soon, they
found themselves underneath the scented canopy
of a spectacular boreal forest of slash pines.

They all threw off their air masks gratefully
and sucked in cool earthy air that was
tinged with tannin and a hint of rain.

Gage's heart sank. "We gotta go higher.
The talkies won't reach anything under here.
These trees are huge. And thick.
Joe, where's the nearest ridge?"

Joe turned around in a circle with his limp
burden, Johnny keeping pace, as he caught
his bearings. Then he threw his filthy haired
head upwards. "Up there. That's Devil's Head
Trail. A ranger station's at the top. With any
luck, ...Tim Cassidy's still there."

"Who? " Roy asked, resting against a spicy
tree trunk.

"Tim Cassidy.." Joe elaborated. "He's the
assistant head ranger. A real short wicked kinda guy
at times but he's got a real level head. He'll help
us out in a flash. Who knows, maybe Julie Beck's
up there. She's working today."

"Julie Beck?"

Joe filled him in. "Remember the medic the
doc said he knew who packed out this
medical bag for us? Well she's it."

Gage's mouth fell open. "That ranger
paramedic's a..a...woman?"

"Yep." Joe said distractedly, still
holding Benny.

"And she's a ranger?"

"What's the matter with your ears, John?"
Joe asked quizzically. "You going deaf
with fatigue? Yeah, a real Sierra Nevada
forest ranger. One of the first ever stationed
at Devil's Head. You'll like her."

"I'll bet.." Johnny said, warming to the idea.

"Does that tower have a radio?" Roy asked, still catching
his breath. " We may still be out of HT range of Cap
and the chief from up there. Our truck crash's on the
other side of the mountain where we might not
be able to reach them."

"It's got one. You see, that station up there
is the state's best lightning research base in
the entire country.." Joe said proudly.

"Lightning?" Gage's smile fell away.

"Yeah, happens all the time. Especially this
time of year. Something to do with the way
the weather patterns fall around these parts."
Joe said.

"How long will it take for us to reach it?"
Roy asked.

"Oh, about ten minutes. It's just up that
trail that way."

"What trail?" Gage said, seeing only
massive boulders and lumpy juts
of steel colored outcrops with no level
surfaces underneath the monster pines.

"That one. See the sign?" Joe pointed.
"It's right up that way. It's not far at all."

Johnny's hope for an easy rescue was
dashed. A tiny weathered, tilted wooden side
proclaimed the trail's head up the mountain.
The way was difficult and gnarled by car sized
playdoh ball stepping stones.

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"I see it, Mr. Dawson." he said unhappy. "But
first, set Benny down. I wanna get another set of
vitals. On him and Roy both."

"Ok.." Joe said cheerfully. And he gently set
Benny's quiet length down on a giant mossy
log near them.

"Better sit down, Roy, while I get yours next."
Johnny said, taking the teenager's carotid pulse
as he studied his wrist watch. "Looks like we got
a long couple of hours ahead of us. Try to catch
your breath back." Johnny told him.

Roy just hung his head and he let the morphine take
over. It swept over his body in a rush and took the
edge off his pain. ::Just a little. Only,...just :: he
thought wearily. ::I wish I could take a nap like Benny
here.  Right now, I don't feel like I'm much use to
anyone. I hope I can make it to the top of all that.::

Image of roysleepinsquadnight.jpg Image of rangerponder.jpg

From:  Jeff Seltun <>
Date:  Thu May 27, 2004  8:35 pm
Subject:  Search and Rescue..

Gage gently shook DeSoto's shoulder, "Hey... Roy.."

"Huh?" he replied, bleary eyed from the depths of
a deep nap. He looked up to see Johnny wearing a
stethoscope and the oxygen was out again at his
knees. Roy felt his face to find the bag's mask there
on a flow and his shirt was flung open, his chest
exposed to the growing chill of the late afternoon
forest.  "What happened? Was I out?" he wheezed.

"Nope. You came around to a rub with me
barely touching you. My guess is the pain killer's
messing with you a little bit. I only got this on
ya to make waking up a little easier. You were
sleeping more than soundly." Gage said, repositioning
the mask over Roy's nose and mouth absently.
"So I took another vitals set a minute ago."

"What are they now?" Roy asked, tossing a
careless hand towards the stethoscope around
Johnny's neck.

"Better. BP 124/ 78. Resps normal at 14."
Johnny replied. "Your pupils are sluggish though
because of the morphine."

Roy looked down at himself and started buttoning up his
shirt. He glanced up in a question about the rest
of the infomation concerning his chest.

Gage waved a dismissing hand and turned off
the O2 on Roy. "I was only listening to that edema
you've still got. Benny's showing the same thing. Only a little
worse. He says he's bubbling on the left side
but he refused to use any of this." Johnny said,
rapping on the O2 tank with grimy knuckles.
"You still have no signs of a tension pneumothorax
showing up. Start counting your lucky stars, pally."

Roy sat up a little higher against the log he
was slumped against. His ribs ached only dully
and it no longer felt like a vise was wrapping
around him. "Benny's awake?"

"Umm hmm and hungry." Gage nodded, taking
Roy's pulse and scribbling his reading down
on his notepad. "Seems all this fresh air out
here's all he needed to make a fantastic recovery.
He's already asked when we can begin heading
up to the ranger's station. I told him just as soon
as you felt like walking again."

"How long has it been since we stopped?" Roy
wondered. He couldn't tell from his muted down
aches at all.

"Oh, about forty five minutes or so."

Roy struggled to his feet, pulling off the mask.
"An hour?! My G*d, Johnny. Cap must be outta
his skull with worry about us."

"No he's not." said Gage coolly. "Remember my
conversation with Dixie at all? She said she'd
relay our game plan to escape to the engine
crew and the chief. I told her that we had a sure
fire route out of there with no possibility of
any problems cropping up."

"You're forgetting the water pipe bursting in
on us making all that acid rain out of the

"That didn't get you. Only your jacket. That
wasn't a problem at all." Johnny countered
mildly, staying calm.

"Close enough!" Roy flared. He immediately
regretted his reaction when his ribs reawoke
into agony. "Sorry, I'm not myself."

Image of roydisgruntled.jpg Image of jstunneddayview.jpg

"I noticed." Johnny said, the slight smile
never leaving his face. He put away the mask
and tubing into its pouch and began repacking
the portable tank into the blue satchel. "Come on,
gimme the arm on your good side and I'll
help ya to your feet. You can sleep all you'd
like once we get there."

"Can't we wrap me up first?" Roy asked

"You won't be able to breathe freely enough
for all the exercise we'll be doing climbing
those rocks on the trail. You'd never make it."

"What makes you so sure I'll make it now?"
said DeSoto with a foggy head.

"Because of the sheer fact that you're arguing
with me about it, Roy. Anyone truly off their
feed would never do that."

Roy's stomach rumbled right then, betraying

"So that makes four of us who're starving."
said Joe, moving nearer to the two paramedics
when he finally saw Roy maneuvered to his feet.
"Man, I hope the tower's got good chow. I've never
been up there."

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute." Roy started up
again. "If that's true, how do you know this is the right way
to get there?" he said tossing a head at the tree log
sign declaring the existence of a path in front of them.

"Those d*mned stairs tell me so, mister fireman."
Joe said with a wink, pointing.

Roy's eye finally focused on a precarious flight
of maroon stained wooden staircases meandering
through tangles of boulders and into a chasm.
He could see them all the way to the top of the peak
to which they were heading. "Oh." DeSoto muttered
weakly. "Didn't see those."

"Not surprising with that shot giving you a close run in
with the sandman." Dawson retorted. "Benny
says he can make it ok without help. How about
you? I offer you a shoulder up."

Roy shook his head after pushing off the tree
he was leaning on. "That trail's single file.
I promise I'll sit down if it gets to be too much."

"I'll be the one right behind ya." Joe said, grabbing
up Roy's tossed aside turnout.

Johnny watched Joe speak quietly with Benny,
offering the young man Roy's jacket for warmth.
Gage leaned in dangerously to DeSoto. "Want
mine?" he mumbled.

"No. I'm not cold."

"Ok.. ok.. just doing those weird first aid things you already
know about." he said smirking. "Race ya.." and he dashed
off after Benny and Joe with the blue bag and both helmets
clattering around the air bottle he had forgotten to take off
his back.

Roy shook his head ruefully and followed after.

About half way up the mountain, it began to rain.


"Ho.. in the tower!" Gage cried out as they mounted the
final stairway in the driving rain. The sun, to the west,
was fleeing. "I've injured people!"

Tim Cassidy and Julie Beck both, came out of the glass
enclosure of the watch tower and out onto the
balcony. They saw the four men and immediately
recognized all the fire gear despite chlorine staining
and water marks. "Coming!" said the red long haired

Julie Beck immediately grabbed hold of the teenager
and helped him up the final steps into the dry interior
of the ranger tower. Tim Cassidy, took over for
Johnny and helped Roy out.

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Tim recognized Joe right away. "Mr. Dawson?
That truck crash was in your tunnel?"

"Don't you two monitor your radios?" said
the maintenance man harshly. "Of course
that was my tunnel. The fire department
scanner should have told you that right off."

"They had to be relocated before they could
mobilize the two of us down there."

Gage said, "What?"

Julie Beck nodded. "Mr. Gage. Captain
Stanley told us you were coming. I'm Julie Beck,
head rescue ranger and this is Tim Cassidy,
my local side kick. I'll answer all your
questions just as soon as we've taken care
of your injured partner and Joe's tunnel worker first.
I wanna get the four of you out of those
wet things and into dry clothes." And she
opened a locker and pulled out a box
full of spare civilian fall clothes in plaids
woven with thick, warm wool.

Roy's teeth were chattering so loudly
that Gage didn't protest. He went right for
them as Roy began peeling down.
"Just how long is it supposed to rain
a-anyway?" DeSoto asked.

"Not long. This is just an isolated cloud
front. Maybe... another few minutes. Then
the real show starts." she replied cheekily.

"What real show?"

A sharp vivid crack of purple lightning struck
very nearby and hit the rod on top of the
tower. Thunder jolted and made everyone
except the two rangers jump.

Tim Cassidy smiled. "That one. Happens
every two days or so right around this time
after the sun goes down."

The rain, as quickly as it had come, departed.
But the lightning only grew stronger and happened
more often.

A machine whirred into life on the ranger desk that
reacted similar to a seismograph but it went ignored as
the two rangers helped Roy and Benny change
and get under blankets.

Johnny took the opportunity to get his bearings
on just how high up they really were.

A spectacular 360 degree angled view of jutting buttes
and a broad pine valley filled the look out
and the sight took Gage's breath away. To the east,
was a dark smudge of purple pink smoke and
a tongue of fire a mile wide. "A wild fire?" he gasped.
"Is that why rescue operations at the tunnel were halted?"

Image of fireridgevalley.jpg Image of lookoutview.jpg Image of devilsheadridge.jpg

Julie Beck could only nod sadly. "Yes. The truck fire
started up a minor brush burn, but then this lightning
did the rest. The whole valley's about to go up."

"What about us?" Gage asked.

"Oh, we'll be safe enough up here. There's nothing
but bare rock around us for a quarter of a mile.
Only lightning can reach us. And we're far too insulated
to be effected by that." Julie said.

Cassidy got on the short wave radio to let the
distant fire stations know that Gage and DeSoto and
their victims had made it to Devil's Head.

Roy looked up from his blanket wraps where he
sat on the couch. "Johnny, I don't like it. We only
had two brush assignments called out. And that
bluff over there looks really bad."

Beck had abandoned the view Johnny was
transfixed by and was digging inside another
locker for all of her medical gear and medications.
"Captain Stanley thought the same thing. He didn't
know the condition of Roy and Benny here so he
ordered your crewmates to hike in to meet you
here. Lopez and Stoker and Kelly should be arriving
in about ten minutes, last radio call."

"Can I talk to them?" Gage said, surprised yet
again. "They might be in trouble."

"They're fine. They're not even in that threatened
valley, Mr. Gage. The lightning will knock out
their HTs for a while so you're gonna have
to trust me as to their ETA. They're here because
I've formally asked for help." Ranger Beck said.

"What for?" asked Johnny. "Not for us, surely."

Tim Cassidy shook his head. "Not you."
"There's a kid's camp at Happy Hollow along
the Verdigris River and they haven't had time,
like you four did, to get out of the way. On the
last transmission from the camp counselors,
seven kids are still unaccounted for after
the camp was evacuated."

Julie laid out her paramedic gear and two
fresh O2 tanks for Johnny. Then she rose
and hefted a laden backpack full of climbing
and extrication gear and set it by the door.
"You can contact your hospital base station
using that short wave radio right there.
I've IV's in plenty and I've also most of the narcotics
you fellas are used to from your squad drug box.
Make use of them and your doctors." she said
and she reached for some rain gear.

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