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Image of royjohnnyropesmountainclimb.jpg
    From Loaves To Fishes
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               Page Three

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"Wait a minute," Roy said. "Are you and Mr.
Cassidy planning on going out there?"

"We have to. No one but us knows the
mountains as well as we do. If anyone can
find those kids, it's us."

Gage turned from his inspection of all the medical
supplies and he quickly got to his feet.
"Hang on a minute here. Don't you think that
we'll have a better chance at finding those
kids if we wait until our engine crew gets here?"

"Perhaps." Tim said thoughtfully, pausing by
the door.

"Then let's do that.  The guys aren't slackers
when it comes to rappelling and rural extrication
operations." Johnny insisted.

"All right, we'll wait.." Julie decided, tossing
her auburn shoulder length hair out of her eyes.
"Why don't you fill us in as to your injured friends'
conditions here and we'll see about getting dinner
on the stove, all right?"

"Deal.." Johnny replied.


Fifteen minutes later, Stoker, Kelly and Lopez,
with full brush fire gear, drip torches and portable
fire shelters, arrived at the ranger tower
from the steep trail's steps.

The wind was hot and no longer smelled like rain,
only ozone and sky bound electricity.

"Man, Gage..what a trip in.." came Kelly's
puffing, excited and very welcome voice. "Is DeSoto
all right? And the other guy? L.A. didn't tell us
much from Dixie's report from Rampart."

"Yeah, nothing like worrying to make a guy
run faster.." Lopez said, ducking into the
ranger's tower and out of the raging summer
night wind. "So spill the details."

"They're fine guys. Roy's got a few broken
ribs and Benny here's over some chlorine
gas exposure. Nothing dire." Johnny reported.

Stoker didn't say anything at all but went
straight for the short wave radio and
hefted the microphone. "Station 51 to Base.
We're situated. Gage and his victims are
all right. The new fire's completely blocked
the foot of the trail up leading here so if you send
more men, have them come up an alternate
route. Over.."

##10-4, Station 51. We read you. Stand
by for air support's report on the spread of
the ridge fire before you head out with the park
rangers on your SAR mission. They
offer its ETA in ten minutes.##

"Standing by.." Mike replied.

Julie was fast at handing out sandwiches and
pop cans to everyone in the room as the
lightning continued to crackle in a dry rage
around them. Soon, they were all eating.

Everyone ate but Johnny, who didn't until
he reached Rampart with his update and
new medical data on Roy and Benny. Dr.
Early was still working on the night shift and
he was eager to learn the details. Then,
he dismissed Gage until rescue parties
could reach the camp kids after breaking
through the growing fire dipping into
the valley below the rangers station.

Benny went right to sleep. But Roy,
feeling much better, joined in on the plan
of attack at getting to the camp before the
larger fire got there.

Tim seemed confident. "We've been down
to this camping ground before. Earlier
this spring. When a little girl went missing
from her parent's trailer. Julie and I were
called to be guides along the river bank."

"Did you ever find her?"

Tim hung his head. "Yes, she washed over
the falls three days later."

"I'm sorry." Roy said. "Thanks for the clothes."

"No problem. We always keep spares in case
a rainfall catches hikers coming up here by surprise."
he smiled. "How are you doing? Sounds like
the gas really did a number on your voice."

"I sound worse than I feel, believe me."

"What's Benny's etiology?" Julie asked from
as she took Benny's blood pressure from where
he slept on the couch under the watch windows.
"I placed him back on some light 02 since he was
breathing a little fast."

"Simple suffocation. He turned around right away
with a few minutes of active ventilation. That edema
you're hearing, my partner says, isn't aspirant. It's
only a chemical fluid reaction from the chlorine.
A little albuterol should clear that up."

"And we got permission to use that Miss Beck."
Johnny piped up from where he and Tim and
the other three firefighters were still planning
their plan of attack to go hike down into
the valley after the missing kids.

"Understood." Julie said aloud, then she looked
thoughtfully at Roy. "That pain med still working?"

Roy decided not to lie. "No. But I'll manage.
I may be needed on this hike, too. Having seven
potential victims leaves us a little short handed
in the paramedic department."

"It does." Julie said evenly. "But I could call down
and have your captain ground you based on my

"Please.. don't.  I have kids of my own and the thought
of anybody else's lost on this mountain just turns my

"Amen to that, Roy.." Lopez piped up.

"He's going.." Kelly said in no short terms to Beck.
"We'll watch him for ya and I'll personally make sure
he doesn't do anything stupid climbing."

Julie Beck smiled. "How can I resist an offense like
that. You know you firefighters are really something,
you know that?"

"I already know that.." Joe Dawson piped up. "They
saved Benny when I thought he was a goner for sure."
he said from where he was watching Julie care for
his young coworker.

Mike Stoker motioned Johnny to the radio.
"Gage, it's Cap."

"Fireman John Gage." Johnny said into the receiver,
knowing it was being routed through L.A.'s monitors.

##Gage, here's the latest report. Seven confirmed
missing. Last seen kayaking by the north shore of
the lake near the river's mouth. Now the counselors
think the kids saw the fire coming even as the
thunderstorm broke down on them and they believe
the children may be trying to head for higher ground,
to get away from the flashfloods.##

"But the ridge fire's up there." Johnny said despite

##I know that Johnny. And that's gonna be your
conundrum. Plan accordingly. The park rangers
with you assure me that they can negotiate around
this fire and the cliffs enough to reach the areas
the kids might be in without excessively putting
you all in danger. Now I'm ordering Stoker to remain
behind with your injured civilian while the rest of
you go on this SAR assignment. Think Roy
can handle that?##

Gage replied wryly. "I believe he can do whatever
he puts his mind to, Cap."

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##Good enough. Now Mr. Cassidy says that
our radio contact will be sporatic at best during
this rescue operation so rely on visual flares ok?
I'll be on the west side of the valley working in with
a staging team and I want you five with the
rangers to work across the east side in a search pattern.
I have ample brush fire crews moving in and three water
choppers are now available for your sole usage should
you need an emergency water drop in a hot spot.##

"Cap, I.."

##You five'll do fine. I've all the confidence in
the world that you and the rangers can pull this off.
Make the department proud and impress
the Sierra team. You're all those children've got.
Engine 51, out.##

Tim Cassidy let the closing line click off the air
and he shoved the hand mic out of the way.
"I can hardly wait to meet this captain of yours
Gage. He sounds like quite a man."

"He is. Believe me, he is.." Kelly quipped.

"Are we ready to go?" Marco asked.
"I've got six bottles of spare air and
an O2 tank in each backpack along
with your portable medical gear, Miss Beck."

"Thank you. And yes, I do feel we're set
here. Mr. Gage? DeSoto? Anytime you are."

And Julie Beck indicated the door  
as a wild stab of lightning filled the sky.

From :  Sam Iam <>
Subject :  [EmergencyTheaterLive] And then there were five..
Sent :  Saturday, May 29, 2004 2:31 AM

Mike Stoker spoke quietly from where he
was leaning against the radio transmitter table
on the desk. "Benny's on an I.V. Should he
be left with me, like this, while having one in?"

"We're not going anywhere just yet. " DeSoto
said. "And your answer's no. A patient with
an intravenous line can't be left unattended
by a paramedic. Looks like protocol's rubbing
off on you pretty well, Stoker." and he grinned.

"I just remembered arguments between you
and Johnny a few years ago about how
pointless call prioritizing was for a while there
in the system." Stoker remembered. "And
Roy brought up that point about I.V.s and
how it ties up service unit availability."

"How can I forget?" Chet snorted. "It was
the first time I've ever seen Gage passionate
about anything."

"Oh ha ha.." Johnny said with a glib expression.
"The way we got calls that summer WAS stupid.
I still remember that construction worker dying
of a heart attack when I was working overtime
for Station Eight's just because we didn't have
a rescue squad and a defibrillator there on time.
I was so angry that 110 was busy with just a simple
syncope case who's M.D. ordered a start of a
normal saline I.V. They had to escort her into the
hospital because of it and our man died."

There was a sound of tenor voice from the couch.
"Then take it out. I no longer want it.." said Benny,
rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "Don't need this
either." and he pulled off the oxygen that Julie
had placed on him earlier while he napped. "I
appreciate all the care you guys are giving me,..
Joe said that you did a lot to save my life.. but those
kids down there need you more than I. Please,.."
and the young, dark haired man raised his taped
arm up. "Take it out and go. Use the fact I'm
refusing treatment if you have to justify not running
this change by a doc first. I'll be fine. I feel fine. Really."

Gage blinked, torn between his sense of precautionary
protocol and the instinct of prioritizing Cap's order
to the foreground. Common sense won out. "Ok... this
will only take a second." and he knelt down by Benny
and discontinued his I.V. "This is nearly gone anyway.
But promise me that you'll keep drinking fluids while
you're here."

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"I will."

"Good man." and he pulled out the catheter after
ending the flow and taped a cotton wad over the site.
He folded Benny's arm up in half. "Hold your arm like
this for a few minutes until things clot up again."

Benny sighed, and hid a cough.



"I want you to get Benny down from here the first
sign of any more trouble vitals wise on him. Use a
helicopter pickup soon as the weather breaks if you have
to. We've found a place a chopper can land on the map
over there."

Mike Stoker nodded assent.

Then Johnny rose to his feet, appraising the teen
with reluctant ambivalence. "Benny, Mike's real good
taking over and keeping people's conditions stable.
He's quiet, but he's an all right kinda guy once you
get to know him. I trust him with all my patients."

"And he's a fabulous cook.." Marco added. "Makes
my little old mother from Pasadena jealous. So ask
him to make you some more food if you're still hungry."

Benny laughed, looking away shyly.

"Julie, we're clear to leave. Lead the way.."
Roy said, licking his lips.

Gage grabbed the backpack Roy was about
to lift. "I'll handle that thank you. Unlike Benny,
you ARE still under my care. You just make sure
you don't jar those ribs. Last thing we need is to
stokes you back up here. Walk ahead of me.."
Johnny fussed. "Stoker, stay on the communications
band. We'll be trying the whole way down. These
may not be able to reach the staging area, but
they'll sure as h*ll reach the tower."

"Check in every ten minutes.." Stoker recommended.
"I tested the frequency to the camp. It's still patent."

"Good going. See ya. "
Gage nodded and opened the door.
He left following after Kelly, Cassidy, Beck
DeSoto and Lopez, ducking only twice at
the lightning zinging around the angry night
sky. Thunder drowned out his enthusiastic
farewell for Benny, but Mike and Benny
saw his wave.


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Julie paused at the bottom of the long stairs
near the trail's foot. She gestured to her left.
"This way.. I've a method to my madness.
We'll be running a risk taking the main river path
due to high water but it'll be an added safety
measure should we run into a firestorm in
this wind!" she yelled to them all.

Roy was panting with their exertions but
Gage saw his color never paled. DeSoto
asked, "How far do we have to go to reach
the camp's headquarters?"

"About three miles. The trail's rocky and
passes through a narrow gorge, but the
lack of rain's in our favor. It won't be
muddy." Tim Cassidy replied over
the noise of the lightning and the wind from
the storm. "Are you doing ok?"

Roy nodded and shooed the brown haired
ranger onwards. Gage, kept up at the rear.

"Plan C.." Julie said to all the firemen, " that
we all take the horses at daybreak and leave
from the lodge stables out on search as soon
as the light's good."

"Me? Ride a horse?" Chet startled. Then
his face broke out into a huge grin. "Far out.."

Johnny just moaned sarcastically. "Yeah.. that's
if you don't get yourself tossed off or something
and break a leg, Kelly."

"I'm not worried. I'm surrounded by paramedics."
Chet said as he picked his way over the trail
with his heavy supply pack. "And I'm near a real
pretty lady one, too."

"She's married.." Tim Cassidy grinned, looking

"Oh, too bad." Gage mourned truly, disappointed.

Julie was oblivious to the exchange, intent as
she was with checking her compass for
their orientation and coordinates.

A sudden bolt of heat lightning lit up the way
ahead and they could see the glint of water
raging over a cascade in a smooth tongue
of dark amber water beneath them.

"We're at the river. Careful now." Julie
said. "Watch your step."

They had gone down the trail fifteen yards
when Tim suddenly shouted. "There! One
of the kids!"

Everyone glanced up from their feet to
see a sprawled boy on his back on a
shallow water sandbar.

Tim and Julie both dropped their packs
and rushed forward. "Look around, there
may be more. The camp teaches a buddy

Soon, Gage and Roy found a little girl,
just as wet but alive. She awoke easily
at a shake but was very, very cold to the
touch. "It's hypothermia.." Roy said over
the storm. "See how she's drooling?"

"Yeah.." Gage drew out a thermal sheet and
wrapped the girl tightly inside of it.

"I'll carry her.." Roy said, "She's not heavy."
he said, murmuring encouragement to
the mute and numbed child.

Gage shouted out to Tim and Julie.
"How's yours?!"

"He's alive.. He's got spidering burns
on his left leg. Looks like a near strike's
effected him. He's got a good carotid
and respirations." Julie shouted over
the strong wind.

"You gonna backboard him?" Gage

"Yeah.. We can use a backpack's rack
and bandages." she answered.

Soon, the boy was on O2 and immobilized.

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Lopez and Kelly took both ends of his
improvised stretcher and Julie followed
at his head with a hand on the boy's pulse,
monitoring him. "Let's go.. We gotta warm
him up just as badly as we need to do her."
Beck said.

Johnny and Roy started off again in a tight
pair around the semi conscious little girl
leaning against Roy's chest. "She's not
even shivering anymore.." Gage said,
feeling inside the blanket for the girl's arm.

"I know." DeSoto replied. "Just hurry. I'm
watching her consciousness level closely.

Gage reluctantly picked up his packs again
and hurried off after the other five ahead of

Soon, the dark bulk of a well lit main lodge
of a log cabin style campground materialized
out of the darkness and storm strobing pine

It was a relief to get out of the wind and all
their ears rang in the silence.

Johnny Gage whipped out his HT.
"HT 51 to Tower Base. Do you read me?"

Stoker's reassuring voice crackled into being.
"I read you."

"Contact L.A. and the search commander.
We've found two of the lost children. Both
are alive. Set up a relay to Rampart. They're
gonna need treatment right away.."

"Hang on,.. I'll be set in a couple of minutes.."
Mike replied.

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From :  patti keiper <>
Sent :  Tuesday, June 1, 2004 12:46 AM
Subject :  [EmergencyTheaterLive] Let the River Run.

DeSoto nodded with satisfaction as
Stoker's promise faded away over
the speaker.

He carried the unconscious boy over
to the bed and began cutting off his clothes
for a trauma survey while Julie coaxed the fatigue
muted little girl out of her wet dress and got her
under a thick pile of covers to begin the process
of rewarming her.

Johnny tossed down his handy talkie
onto the desk with a clatter. "That's done.
Mike's getting us Brackett most likely.." he said
to Beck and DeSoto. They nodded, knowing the
senior physician was the top most expert on
pediatric medical emergencies.

Gage moved to the pale little boy and
placed him on a new tank of oxygen and
checked his pupillary reaction.  His earlier smile
at Stoker's efforts waned into a frown of frustration.
"Fat lot of good it'll do having the doc on the
horn. There's not much we can do about treating
these kids without their parent's consent."
Johnny bemoaned.

A ripping sound attracted all of their attention.

It was duct tape being pulled down from a screen
mesh.  "They knew we were coming.." said Tim
Cassidy, marvelling. He hefted up a manilla colored
cardboard folder in triumph. "This was taped to the
lodge door and it's full of papers.These could be the
go ahead we're looking for."

Gage said, "Chet, leaf through that.. See if
all seven kid's consent forms are in there.
Julie, I need you to help me check the boy's
reflexes, I have to concentrate on his vital
signs, and Roy's cutting corners, getting his I.V.

"Babinski's?" Beck guessed.

"Yeah. Both feet." Johnny replied. "Brackett's
gonna want to know about any keraunoparalysis.
I'm seeing bluish tingeing here on his legs."

Julie nodded. Then she turned to the little girl.
"Ok, honey.. I'll be right back. You just stay
snuggled down deep and this nice ranger will
be here to keep you company, all right?" Beck
said to her patient.  

The girl was too cold to reply. Or do much
beyond blinking a few times when Julie stood
up as Tim Cassidy took her place.

"I'll make sure she doesn't go to sleep."
he said to Beck.

Satisfied, Julie went to tend Johnny's request.

Marco had finished completing his examination
of the large pine wood panelled room. "The staff
really knew we were coming. Or at least the fire
crews. There's boxes of medical supplies and
tarps and extra hose and directions to the water
hydrants." he mentioned. "And a backup generator
for the radio to go along with the one it's attached
to already."

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"Nice.." Chet said. "Johnny, to answer your question,
yeah, there are seven forms here. With a note from the
camp counselors wishing us luck and a copy of the
order the staff received from Batallion 14 to clear out."
he said, waving a transcript in the air.

"So the camp's abandoned.." Tim Cassidy said,
stroking the hair away from the tiny girl's muddy face.

"Yeah.." Marco replied.  "Would you stay behind if
you had that looming over your heads?" he asked
forking a thumb out the window to where the blood
red and orange glow of the valley fire glowed despite
of its distance away from the camp.

Nervously, the others glanced up to see the progress
of the thunderstorm fueled blaze.  Stories high flames
across the valley tangled aggressively with the lightning's
dry flashes and row by row, pines were disappearing
underneath them, utterly consumed.

"Power's been shut off.." Kelly said, checking out
the spacious lodge's fuse box. "I'll get a fire going in
the fireplace. It's bound to get cold before it gets hot.."

No one laughed at his joke.

The radio on the table crackled into life again.
Tim Cassidy picked up the line. Mike Stoker
spoke quietly. He had their direct line to Rampart
utilizing the ranger tower's mile eating repeater in a
two stage relay. Stoker mentioned next to the paramedics
that he would be their message dispatcher to the doctor
at Rampart.

Soon, the little lightning struck boy had his I.V.
started and a successful esophageal airway inserted.

The male child was deeply in a coma, but on the
EKG monitor, his heart rhythm was steady and
stable with no deviations.

Julie rubbed his hair motheringly. "You'll be ok,
sweety." she sighed in relief. "Keep fighting like
you are and try to wake up soon. We're all here."

Mike Stoker radioed in with the finishing instructions
from Dr. Brackett. ##51, do you have the boy fully
immobilized? He's concerned with blunt trauma that
hasn't begun to display any signs yet.##

"That's affirmative, Stoker." Gage replied into
the HT cocked chin tight to his shoulder. His other
hand was stringing the Ringer's line to the child's
needle port that he had started in the boy's jugular
vein. "On a back pack frame. Vasoconstriction
seems to be confined to his limbs only. Dendrite
burns show the strike entry site was situated on
his right shoulder and the exit was through a contact
point on his left lateral ankle about three centimeters
in diameter. A second exit burn is on his left medial

Roy put dressings on those, while they waited for
Mike to share their update with Brackett.

At Rampart, Kel looked up in relief at Dixie.
"That explains the great looking EKG we have
on him. The lightning didn't bolt through the heart."

Kel toggled the talk switch to the ranger tower.
"Stoker, tell 51 to elevate the boy's limbs to slow
his intimal damage. Last thing we need is deep tissue
necrosis setting in from internal hemorrhaging from
his extremity muscles.... Also, ..."

Stoker suddenly hushed the doctor with news
from the valley camp. ".. Doctor, DeSoto's
noting a change.. He's seeing nonspecific ST-T
wave segment changes and a prolonged QT interval
on his monitor.."

Dr. Brackett pursed his lips, thinking. "Wish I could
see it.." he mumbled to McCall. "I don't like us
being in the dark on this one."

"Trust the boys," she said with a reassuring nod.
"You taught them well on how to interpret cardiac
telemetry. Rely on that now, Kel."

Brackett studied Dixie's face seriously for a long moment,
then he opened the channel back to Mike Stoker.
"Ranger Tower, tell them to administer .3 mg's of
magnesium sulfate I.V. push until they've reached normal
sinus rhythm. Tell them to watch for a loss of his deep tendon
reflexes in his arms as a signal to know when to halt
the drip in the port. That moment will be the indicator
of effectiveness. Do not exceed the dosage delivery
beyond that point."

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##10-4, Rampart..## Stoker replied. ##Stand by..##

A long two minutes dragged by for nurse and doctor.

Finally..   #Normal sinus rhythm's been established..##
burst from the radio speaker.

Dixie celebrated with a beaming smile even as Brackett
leaned on the base station counter and dropped his
head in relief. "10-4, Ranger Tower. We read you.
Tell 51 to keep the patient warm and to keep watching
for signs of heme pigments in his urine. I want to know
the minute any of those show up."

Soon, Mike Stoker finished his relaying information
task and the boy was relegated to monitored status while
the report on the little girl went out.

Julie happily relayed the child's excellent vital signs
and findings and normal EKG. She even received an
order to begin warming her by mouth with hot beverages.

"How would you like some hot cocoa?" she asked
the cocooned girl.

Slowly, the petite child's eyes beamed in an
anticipatory shy smile at Beck's cheek caress
with the question. Julie was rewarded with a whispered,
"Yes, please.."

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By the door, monitoring the fire's progress, Chet Kelly
was less than calm. "Gage,. Beck, we gotta move, now.
The edge's just crested the ridge top. And it looks like
it's moving in the canopy."

That alarmed all of them. Tree top fire storms were
horrible for their reputation, travelling speed
and ability to snuff out all the oxygen in the air.

"The danger of suffocation if we get caught
underneath all that's pretty good, I'm afraid.."
Kelly added.

Roy said, "I'll stay behind. I'll only slow you down if
I was one to go. If things get outta hand with the fire,
I'll radio Cap for a rush on his progress getting here."

Johnny nodded, rose, and put his helmet back on.

Julie accepted the helmet Roy gave her, and his
turnout coat. She turned to Cassidy. "You make sure
to get the calmest horses. Spook, Molly, Diablo
Dot and Flash will be the best ones to go. They didn't
go out on trails this afternoon with the kids. I'll start
picking out the first likely places for us to search
on the wall map."

"Give me ten minutes and they'll be set.." and Tim
dashed out to saddle the horses.

Gage went out with him. "I'll help. I'm an old hand
with horses. I own a ranch."

Tim's doubt on a fireman's ability with horses
registered on his face only briefly before both
men began to run for the peach stucco-ed stable.

Just a short time later, Kelly, Lopez, Gage and both
rangers grabbed ample climbing ropes, medical gear,
air bottles and 02 as they went out the door.

Roy and Johnny exchanged lingering looks of worry
with each other about the remaining five kids and the
very rapid progress of the massive forest fire flowing down
to the camp's valley floor level as the screen door banged
shut between them.

Then there was no more time for hesitation.

They departed.

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The wild night was inky despite the wildfire ringing
around them. Immense trunks of protesting pine
loomed on the dirt trail Julie led the rescuers upon,
heading for their first destination to search. The river.
And the kayak launching beach where the camp held
their lessons.

"It's not much farther!" Julie Beck shouted back at
the others. "The river eddies into a calmer pool here
before the rapids and the waterfall. There's no other
building around here that they could've gone to..."

Tim Cassidy said. "There's also a cave up there on
that scrub ledge just above the boat shed. We'll
split up. Kelly, Gage, go with Julie. Lopez, come with
me. We'll be faster that way..! Don't worry about the horses,
they've been trained to ground tie.."

"They'll stay put through this weather?" Chet asked as he
slid awkwardly from his mount, Molly, jarring his helmet
almost off his head when his air bottle bumped off the mare's

"Like I said. Ground tied. They work with kids, remember?"

"Oh,... yeah..right.." Kelly said, rubbing his chin to dim the bruise
pang he received there.

Tim went on. "Just keep on your radios. We'll have a range
maximum of a mile until the fire's within 800 yards."

Lopez launched off Diablo's back with the same agility as
Johnny off Spook's.  

Tim's horse Flash minced his head in nervousness when
the stallion didn't feel Tim leave his back as well. "Whoa, boy.
You and I are med pack couriers for whoever finds a kid
first." he mumbled to the horse. "Easy boy." he
clicked his tongue inside his mouth to encourage Flash
forward after Marco running already for the cave's cliff.

The group rushed off in two directions before their
flashlights calling loudly for the names of the missing five
children. Julie remained on Dot's back for a high
vantage point as she cantered the filly after Lopez
and Johnny's swaying flashlights in the darkness.

Johnny and Kelly skidded to a halt at a bizarre sight
on the river bank. A little boy wearing a green ranger's
hat was sitting and fishing the river by the light of
the looming fire on the ridge above. Next to him
lay an empty plastic bag of Wonder Bread.

Gage and Julie both ran to the boy thumping
onto their knees by him, while Kelly grabbed a
blanket out of a horse's saddle bag.

Julie grasped the little boy's face to get his
attention over the blowing wind coming
from the rushing river below but the boy
angrily thrust his chin out of her hands.
"Let go.. I gotta get some fish. They'll be
better. Our bread's run out. Pete'll be getting
hungry. He's already so cold."

"What?" Julie said to the little boy. "Kevin,
what are you saying?"

"He's in shock.." Gage said taking the indian
blanket from Chet and wrapping it around the
child. "I'll stay with him. Kelly! Go with Julie
and scout around.. Pete's gotta be nearby
here somewhere.."

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Gage made no move to take the cane pole
away from the boy where he intently stared
at the bopper twisting in the river's current.
Instead, he wrapped a hand around Kevin's
wrist to take a pulse while he spoke softly to
him. "Kevin, it's ok.. Now we're here to help
you and Pete get out of here. The fire's not
going to get you. We've real strong horses
who're gonna take us all out of here just as
soon as we find Pete. "

The staring boy didn't seem to register
Gage's presence.

"Kevin? Where's Pete? Can you tell me

Then, a flicker of recognition when the tiny
boy realized that something warm was
holding his wrist. His trembling lips spoke
so quietly, that Johnny barely heard him.
"He's hiding. He got sick after we ate all
the bread for lunch."

Johnny looked all around them hastily, but
saw nothing but wind torn forest.
"Which way, Kevin? Tell me ... which way
did Pete go after he ate with you?"

Kevin unwrapped one of his arms  from
inside the woven blanket and pointed.

Johnny lifted his HT. "The river! Head upstream!
Kevin says Pete is there!"


Julie and Chet didn't go very far when the glint
of metal flared under their flashlights by the
water's edge. "Belt buckle! Over there!" Kelly

Beck drove Dot through the marsh grass to where
Kelly was pointing and dismounted the mare,
searching and shouting. "Pete! It's Ranger Julie!
Shout if you can hear us! We're gonna get you
out of here!"

There was no reply.

Chet and Julie followed the point of sparkle
near the ground to the river's beach head.

Pete lay head and shoulders under the water,
sprawled beneath an overturned kayak.

"Oh, no...." Julie moaned and ran.

Chet Kelly radioed Gage in a pico. "We found him.
Submersed in shallow water, face down. Hang on.."

Back at the high bank, Johnny's face didn't change
from its gentleness as the bad news reached
him as he sat with an arm around the silenced
Kevin. He didn't even turn around when the
sounds of aggressive suctioning and CPR began
in the bulrushes behind him. All his attention was
on the small child in his arms.

Kevin whimpered. "I gotta catch a fish. Bread's
not enough. Pete'll be so hungry come morning.
I don't know why he's still sleeping there.." he
sobbed weakly.

"Kevin.." Johnny said, resting a warm chin on
the boy's hat covered head that was sticking out
of his warming bearhug.

"....a  real big one.  A brookie.. With shining spots
and ..and.. and.. a gold tail... Just like Ranger Tim
said we'll find here in the middle of the willow pool.
See? I got my bobber out real far. Right to the very
center. I'll get one. It's only a matter of sitting real
still and keeping quiet and.. and..and waiting it o--"

"Kevin.. I gotta share something with you.. It's
gonna be some news... I'm afraid, some ....
really really bad news... about your friend..."
Gage whispered softly. He could feel the boy's
shivering grow more slight in fear.

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He glanced over and saw the trouble Beck
was having trouble inserting an endotrach tube
because of an odd stiffness in Pete's neck
and the lack of pinking in his skin from Chet's
more than ample one handed CPR. A wide
open oxygen line hissed anew when they
saw the lack of effective color, too.

Kevin's voice rose in his plans for helping Pete
get food enough to eat, louder and louder, trying
to drown out what the paramedic holding him
was trying to tell him. "...and we'll get a good campfire
going. And we'll cook that fat trout up real nice until it's
so juicy you can just spit!"

Chet and Julie both looked up at Kevin's
agitation, but continued to revive the cold,
blue little boy beneath their hands. Julie
switched to using an ambu bag and a
simple oral airway when the better one
failed to thread.

Johnny saw the long IC epinephrine syringe
unsheath, and get used after a short
conversation on the radio.

Gage held Kevin even tighter and gently
hushed him. "Shhhhh.. it's ok. We're not hurting
him. We're just being his heart and we're breathing
for his lungs because they can't do that right now.
Pete's too chilled."

Bright tears sprang from Kevin's eyes and
he flung the fishing pole away into the water
and he whirled to hug Johnny fiercely around
the neck, burying his face in the fireman's
shoulder. "I didn't want Pete to drown.. I- I..I
told him ....*sob* we shouldn't use the kayaks by
ourselves. But he..he..he wouldn't listen.
He sneaked us away when we were supposed
to leave camp after Counselor Sue told us that
the fire was coming. I tried to drag him out, but
he fell back in."

"Chet, stop CPR!" Gage heard Julie shout. "I'm
getting a whole lot out of his stomach. Roll

Panting, the two rescuers turned the boy to drain
his nose and mouth. A flashlight bumped and spun
around on the ground, casting light onto Pete's
bared skin. A dull purplish stain sharply drew itself
down the bottoms of Pete's legs, butt and back.
What it was was undeniable to both the paramedics
working on him.

Chet didn't catch it right away. "Ok, Julie, I got
his airway clear.. turn him back over."

Julie remained frozen where she was huddled on
the moss, not really seeing the signs her eyes
were looking at.

"Come on, Julie!" Kelly said, "I gotta start up
again. Let go of his shoulders now.. What's the problem?"

"Oh, no. There's pooling." Julie's shocked voice
gasped as she ran her fingers over Pete's skin
in disbelief.

Chet didn't understand. He was deep in caregiver mode.
"Beck. Turn him over. I'll take over on the bag. "

Julie's words finally made Gage look over his
shoulder at them and the signs Julie was examining.

Chet didn't hear him, intent as he was. "Beck, start
the chest compressions. We've already waited too
long here."

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Gage yelled, knife sharp at his coworker.
"Stop! It's lividity, Chet! Open your eyes and  get a
good look at him. It's over. Can't you see that Pete's
really g--." But  he broke off.

Stunned, Chet's face fell out of urgency to one of profound
sadness as the suction tube slipped from the boy's
mouth and dropped to the sand from his gloves.
He lowered his head... and the curly haired
fireman lifted his hands away from the boy.

The wind died then, and the forest filled with a smoky brooding
silence and a strange blackness.  The grownups tensed as the
sound of the approaching hungry fire grew, hissing and popping.
It made their ears ring with its fiery noise.

The only thing louder was the violent, choking
sobs of a little boy whose heart was broken.

"Kevin.. it's ok to cry..." Johnny said to him,
almost reluctant to touch the angry frightened
little boy who was shrinking away from him.
"Pete's in a better place now.. There's nothing
else we can do. He's not cold or hungry any more."


"Kevin.. we have to go now." Gage said in
a firmer voice, rising to his feet, bending over
to grab the cocooned Kevin's shoulders.

The boy, looking up at the adults with his eyes
red and weeping as he tore out of Johnny's grip.,
snarled. "I'm not leaving Pete! Ranger Tim says that
you never, EVER leave a buddy. I'm not going!"

He turned to run but the river stopped him.

"Kevin.. Look.." came a woman's call.
"I brought Dot with me so she can take us home.
I know it's very dark but can you see her spots?"

"What?" Kevin sobbed.

Beck held out her hands and the reins lying there.
"Show Dot how to get back to camp. She's lost
and..and I don't think she remembers the way. She
needs you.....*sniff* .....Here."

Again Julie offered Kevin the reins of the horse.

Bravely, the tearful boy nodded and he accepted them,
mounting quickly in front of Julie on the saddle.
Beck turned her horse and galloped towards
the direction of Tim and Marco and the cave site.

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Behind them, Gage and Kelly put Pete's covered
body into an uprighted kayak and launched it into
the river followed by a hastily made anchor of rock
and a long length of rope.

Gage nodded at Kelly when they were through.
"The fire won't be able to reach him out there. A recovery
crew can come back to get him later."

The two firemen grabbed their horses and hurried
after Julie and Kevin.


Cassidy and Lopez found the other three children in
a cranny deep inside the shallow granite cave at the top
of the cliff. It took very little effort for Gage and the
others to climb up, reach them, and harness them
down safely to the pine needle carpetted valley floor.

They were dirty, and scared, but uninjured.
Two fireman each took a child and so did one ranger
ranger as front passengers aboard their mounts.

The five horses were galloped quickly back to
the trail..

But the fire had beaten them first.

Tim's horse Flash, reared as a fireball of burning tree
crashed to the ground in front of them. But he
held on to the little girl in his arms so tightly, that
she didn't fall off.

The air immediately grew too thin to breathe.

"*Cough*! Fire storm! Get back to the river!" Tim yelled.

"*Choke* Masks!" Lopez ordered. "Share yours with the
kids!" he said, controlling Diablo's head so he wouldn't jar
the child sitting in front of his knees.  The air bottles
immediately provided breathing room for the humans.

But the horses began to stumble; to trip in the lack
of oxygen as sparks flew down from the fire in the
pine tops.

Julie gave a shout and smacked a rope so loudly
on Dot's haunch that it startled the other horses
into a bolt after her. "Go back! *Gasp*! We gotta
reach the river and go across. It's the only way we'll
find any breathing room for the horses." She whirled
Dot the appaloosa around in her tracks.

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    From Loaves To Fishes
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