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Within Sight
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        Page  Five

Kelly's face fell out of concentration and his
initial self assuredness dropped away.
"I don't know man. I - I got the right chemicals
here.. I know I do.. I've been eating sleeping and
dreaming these mathematical formulas for
days now."

Suddenly a pair of calm hands came between
the men and locked off the settings Chet had
chosen on the fire retardant soup to the hoses
and Mike Stoker's voice said. "You tell your
captain to call in the foam truck for a protective
covering spread, Chet." His fingers danced over
the dials of the engine in a ballet of familiarity.
"From what I feel here, you did everything right.
Give them the go ahead. This was sort of a trick
situation they mapped out for you. It's not in
the book. Just remember foam with fuel and fire."

Chet's face was a mix of emotions as he lifted his
HT to his lips. "Engine 51 to HT 51. Hoses one
and two are set and locked. Foam 127. Move in
to assist from the...." Chet paused as he rechecked
the wind direction with a moistened finger,.."north
side of the fire. You are committed.."

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Charlie, and Mike, who was still eyepatched tightly,
both smiled when Kelly said everything according
to procedure. Even Cap, on Chet's place at a
hose nodded appreciably before he turned back
to fight the fire.

Mike said, "Turn down your master valve two points.
Your left hose sounds kinda hissy.. That one's not getting
enough psi because your supply's been split off.
Must be because the engine's not quite on level ground.
Flows faster on the downhill side always."

Kelly squinted into the dials and wiped grime off
the dial in question. "Man.. what ears.. You're right.
Two points off my percentage setting.
I thought we had the lock down legs on the plates
planted perfectly man. I thought we were ON a level."

"This whole valley's tilted. You had no way of
knowing that. I'm just remembering the pitch angle
from my head."

"Terrif.. Way to burst my bubble, Stoker." Charlie
ribbed. "And here we all thought you were a miracle
dowser through and through."

"Ok, I'm" Kelly said.
Chet and Charlie hauled on Mike's arm to get him back
against the safety of the truck to prevent him from
getting a painful bang on the shins when Johnny's
team's firehose bucked at Chet's minor adjustment
to it.

"Thanks guys.." Mike said, feeling for the cab
door. He opened it so he could sit inside to
keep the excited Boot company.

Atkins had his own advice.
"Chet, do this too, whenever you
make an adjustment or you'll be black and
blue before you know it."
 Charlie felt around with a foot in the standing
runoff water until he had one shoe pinning down
the main hose as the men worked to put out
the mockup fire in both the semi vehicle and
the test building. "Just like this. These hoses
are like live animals whenever anyone rounds
a corner in there or shuts off a spray or two to
move to another hotspot. You won't see
any of that. But your legs will sure make
a note of it. Directly standing on these
puppies will give you plenty of warning
about a buck."

Mike said, " Yeah, that's a good pointer.
Now Kelly, I want you to watch the wind
and how all the hoses' fanning water
may be getting diverted. I can't tell
what it's doing by the sound. If you see
the guys' jackets getting dry more than the
water's cooling them off, turn up the psi and
the chemical mix rate until 90% of the hose
charge is getting onto target, that'll buy them
more time on their SCBA's since they won't
breathe as fast then due to overheating. A
trick I learned is to get progress reports
from each team, every five minutes about
hose patency. Listen to how they're
breathing over the HT and that will give
you clues too as to how well you're
controlling their water supply based on
need. They won't tell you if they're in trouble that
way since things are steaming in a fire anyway."

Kelly's face fell open in surprise as he kept his
lightly ace wrapped hands on the master pressure
dial valve and watched the effect of the daylight
wind over the whole scene before him. "So that's
why you keep bugging us when we enter new
fire hotspots.."

"Yep.." Mike grinned.

Charlie even looked abashed. "You know, Stoker.
I've been engineer at 110's for five years and that
monitoring trick is certainly new to me.."

"That one's not in the book either.. I adapted
it from watching Johnny and Roy work on
people. The higher the breathing rate is on
anybody, the more trouble they're in. It's a
dead giveaway.  Works for working firefighters
who aren't in medical trouble too."

"You know, Stoker?  When you finally get back on
the job, I'm trying out your little trick at home
on the guys, at the next fire. I've always wondered
why our station's SCBA fill rates were so high.
Now I know why.. The men were too hot while
working!" Charlie groused.

Chet and Mike laughed.

Mike cocked his wrapped head at the sound of
the laying foam finally swallowing up all of the flaming
truck mockup. "Ah, ha.. We've turned a curve.
The building, next, after that truck, won't be hard to
extinguish now that its fuel source is smothered. Hear
that, Kelly? The fire's quieting even though the flames
probably still look the same. It's dying out now."

"I hear it. It was kinda growling and hollow before,
now it just sounds like a really big camp fire."

"That's the distinction between the growth and
death of a fire. Remember those sounds." Stoker
told him.  Boot seemed to agree and he barked.

About ten minutes later, station 51's fuel fire exercise
was over and the next scenario was set up
for the next station on the rosters to complete.

Chet was told to wrap up his hose teams and wash away
the foam for the next group to use the test site.

Station 51 was released to return to base and their
regular duties.

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Mike was laughing with the guys in the kitchen
when Chet made his way to the engine and his
potential new station assignment at the engine
chemical panel.

Gage had come by to wash his hands before lunch
when he noticed Kelly quietly surveying that
side of the engine with his hands in his pockets.
"Chet, are you actually moping?" he joked,
his shoes skidding to a halt from his whistling
jog to the locker room sinks. "I don't believe
I've ever seen you do that before.. Well," he
amended, "maybe only once or twice before."

"Oh, hi Gage." Kelly said glumly, sitting on
the running bumper of the engine.

Boot seemed to notice that Chet was feeling
blue because he bolted out of the kitchen,
dropping the roll of paper towels he had
stolen from Marco, and immediately
skittered across the slippery floor to nuzzle
a nose under Chet's ace wrap gloved hands.

Kelly winced a bit with the move on his still
healing hands but he immediately
ignored that and petted Boot's long back.
"Hi, Boot. Look,... you guys didn't have to
come out here. I'll be in for lunch in a sec. I...
just got away for a moment to do some

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"Oh yeah?" Johnny said, his earlier kidding turning
respectful and serious for once. "What about?
You're gonna be a richer man come Sunday when
you finally pass your finals.. An engineer pays,
what? Eighty dollars more a week than a regular
hose man? And you know, come to think of it,
you're gonna be making fifty dollars more
a week than either Roy or I. " Johnny put
a shoe on the engine's bumper which Chet
promptly pushed off to rub with the white towel
that he now carried around with him out of habit.  
"Hey.. hey...  watch the scuffing! I gotta
account for the public appearance of Red
in spite of how much the rest of you guys
like to dirty her up."

That surprised John. "Oh really. Now it's you,
versus us? Is all this standby engineer promotion
stuff going to your head?"

Chet looked immediately abashed and suddenly
sheepish.. "Well,... " Then he squared his shoulders
and only flinched a little under Johnny's angry stare.
"...Yes... I guess.."

Johnny's face melted from suspiciously malicious
to a broad sh*t eating grin. "Well, good. Now you're
finally starting to sound like Mike Stoker. I'm proud
of ya, Chet.. Come here and stop feeling guilty.
After all, this pumper man job thing's only gonna be
temporary and we all know it.." And Johnny's
arm wrapped around Kelly's shoulder in an
affectionate hug which turned into a raiding
noogie, and soon the two friends fell into a
wrestling match on the floor that Boot happily
referee-d and watched over with loud bellowing

Of course, the struggle and grunting commotion
brought everyone running. Soon, bets of who
would pin who first filled the air and even Mike got
into it despite his blindfolding bandages.

Right then, the station alarm went off .....

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From :"Roxy Dee" <>  
Subject : Instinct~~  
Date : Wed, 19 Feb 2003 01:26:19 +0000  

The call came through, ending the wrestling match
in short order.

##Squad 51. Child down, at the McGregor baseball field.
9 Greenway Pass. Cross street, Niven Boulevard.
9 Greenway Pass. Cross street, Niven Boulevard.
Time out, 13:07##

"Cap!" Stoker said, ignoring Boot who was pulling
on his leg to get him out of the way of the squad's
bumper as Johnny and Roy wrote out their call slip
and opened the rescue truck's doors. Mike grabbed
onto the edge of the wall map to steady himself
from Boot's  protective-of-the-one-hurt activity

Captain Stanley piped up after acknowledging the
run on radio frequency. "Yeah, what is it Stoker?"

"That's my ball field. Let me go with them."

Stanley looked up sharply.
"I can't authorize that. Stoker. You're on medical leave.
And besides that fact, you're still wrapped up like a m-"

"Cap, I know those kids! They're on my Big Brother
program. It's gonna bug me not knowing who's in

Boot was still hanging onto Mike's pants leg when
Cap finally said. "All right. Get in there. And I'll tell
you the real reason why I'm letting you go with
them. One of your kids may have been the arsonist
who was responsible for your eyes getting burned."

"What?!" Mike gasped. His shock and surprise were
plain even through the white kerlix concealing most
of Mike's face.

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Cap sighed.
"Gage, DeSoto you didn't hear this.. Stoker, the kid
you're looking for is Jeremy Conners, he mentioned
something about Max, knowing details about the
warehouse blaze that injured you. See what you
can scrounge up."

"Thanks, Cap..I will. " Mike said, turning his bandaged
eyes towards the squad, but Boot still stubbornly  
held him in a firm grip by the ankle.

"Boot, let him go.." Cap ordered the hairy mutt
"guarding" Stoker. The shaggy dog dropped his
hold on Mike's foot immediately and sat next to
Cap as the garage doors finished rolling up into
their housing. Stoker climbed in fast when Roy
stepped out of the squad to make room for him
to sit between them. DeSoto guided Mike's head
into the cab before he got back behind the wheel.

Chet came jogging up and he handed over
Stoker's helmet from the engine for him to wear.
"You let me know what happens, Mike. They're
my kids too.."

"I can do you one better Kelly." Roy promised him.
"Get on your HT. Listen for our med call on Rampart's
base station channel.. It can be done. KMG 365-B,
sub two. We'll still be in the ten mile range and open
to you. That way, you'll know the minute we do about
what's up. Just don't speak up or L.A. will hear you."

"Nice tip. I'll do that." Kelly said, and patted the
squad roof to let Roy know that all feet, dog and
human, were clear of the tires.

Roy, John and Mike drove quickly out of the
station, turning left onto the street with sirens and
lights on full.

Chet and Cap in the bay crouched by Boot, and both men
absently petted him. "Hey Cap, just how much trouble are
we in for letting a blinded fireman go to a rescue scene?"
Kelly asked.

"Could be plenty. But, I've special leeway when it comes
to investigating a fire crime and that's what I'm banking
on to bail my butt with the chief. If Stoker stays off the
radio, like I know he will, headquarters will never know
he's out there with them." Stanley snorted.

"Glad you let him go."

"Like I had any other choice? I don't think twenty
Boots could've stopped Stoker from riding along.."
Hank quipped, pointing to their mascot who was
playfully tugging on their shoe laces. "Come on,
let's put lunch in the oven. We'll eat when they get
back. "

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The squad arrived at the park on the north side of
the reserve's four fields. Stoker was able to tell them
which ball diamond was the McGregor field because of
his knowledge of the park's layout.

Roy and Johnny screeched to a halt in the parking lot
nearest a crowd of kids milling about on top of the
rickety graffiti painted, wood tiered bleachers.

"Mike, do you know your way around here well enough?"
DeSoto asked as he pulled out the biophone, drug box
and 02 from the storage compartment of the squad.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. I hear Old Ben in the concession stand.
I'll let him lead me to the bleachers so I can talk with
the kids. Just find out what's wrong. It's killing me not
knowing what's happening here."

It soon became clear that finding someone
to be Mike's eyes to navigate the area wasn't

"Coach! Hey guys, look! It's Coach! He's all right!"
said an older boy of twelve in a dingy baseball outfit.
Then two baseball teams of kids flooded around Mike
Stoker enthusiastically in a cheer and even Old Ben
lifted his head to peer myopically from the concession

Gage was irritated by the throng,
"Hey ...hey ...hey, now we're on a rescue call.
Who called the station about a hurt or sick child?"
he said lifted his medical boxes high over the
children's milling circle around them.

One little girl piped up. "Oh, you must mean Susan."
she said snidely. "She made us call for help from
the park pay phone because she said she was dizzy

"Does Ben know about this?" Mike asked incredulous.

"Nah, he don't know.." said another boy. "You know how
deaf he gets sometimes. He told us there's no way
he's leaving the popsicle cooler. Guess the older boys
have been stealing too much behind his back. Must
have thought we were trying to trick him again.
Why are your eyes wrapped like that, Coach?"

Roy rubbed his nose, looking at the tiny young man.
"Look just forget Coach's eyes for a minute.
Where's Susan? Least we can do is take a look at
her to see if she's really ok." DeSoto turned.
"Mike, do you have State authorized consent
of guardianship over these kids when you're on the
premises? I don't see any adults nearby that look
like they belong to any of these kids here.
We may have to treat her."

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"I do... Susan's one in the Big Sister program under my
authority. This is All-Clubs week and sounds like
all my kids are here today. All I know is that she's
a fourth grader at the Home which is only a block
away to the north." Stoker said. "There ARE no parents
as all these guys are fostered out through the
State Home there. Usually Old Ben has his grown
daughter psychologist helping to keep an eye on things
during Free Day like this. I'm not hearing her voice
anywhere. Don't know why she's not here right now. .
If she had been, this whole situation might not
have happened the way it's happening right now."

"Mike, your authorized consent is all we need at
the moment. Try to calm down." Johnny said.
Then he pointed out a random kid from the noisy
bunch. "You! Son! Yeah, you! Take us to where
Sue is, pronto like. It might be serious." he said
letting his frustration of not finding their patient
ooze out of every pore.

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Within Sight
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