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The Golden Horn

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                  Page Five

Another body climbed up the back of the squad,
looming into view. A singed white crested helmet.

"Cap?" Johnny queried.

But it wasn't him. It was the silvered haired Carter. "Gage!"
Steven shouted at him. "We're on it. How are you and
the girl?"

"Whaa? uh, we're fine. What the h*ll happened to them?"

"Same as you. Blown tires..Only it looks like Stoker
couldn't stop in time. Stay with your victims!"
36's cap ordered. "I don't know details yet!"


"Just do it.. I'll let you know about them as soon as I do..!"
Carter said, jumping down to the ground. He literally flew
to where Johnny could just barely hear Chet Kelly shouting.
Gage couldn't make out any words.

Johnny felt a weight impact the squad's roof. He
whirled around on his knees to see 36's bucket man
lightly land the bucket on top of the squad's other roof
strut. The man climbed off of it and leaned over just in
time to help a hysterical Alex's mom up onto
the roof with an assisting hand from where she
was reaching up to him.

"Alex! Honey? Are you ok?" she sobbed.

Johnny could see the little girl's mother had a fresh cut
over one cheek that was inexplicable, but it didn't
immediately register to Johnny's stunned mind. But he
felt himself answer her. "She's all right. The tarp protected us.."
He turned to the fireman with him. "Atkins, Alex is breathing,
but her rate's a little fast. Only ventilate her if she tires.
I had to keep her from pulling in any heat for a minute
and she's still recovering from that."

"Right." 36's fireman knelt by the silent child and took
over Johnny's place on Alex's oxygen.

Alex's mom began to sob. "Alex? How is she?
And where are the other firemen? I- I thought they were
going to get us down from here so we could meet up
with that ambulance you said was coming.."

That stopped both Johnny and Atkins in a moment.

Atkin's silently mouthed, "She's forgotten about what's
just happened?" about Engine 51 to Johnny concerning
her mental status.

Johnny's mouth just gaped like a fish twice before
he felt himself click into automatic paramedic mode.
He tried to glance over the squad's roof towards where Roy, Kelly
and Captain Carter had disappeared as the two of them sat
her down on top of the cab. "They've uh,.. they've got
something to catch up on." he told her distractedly.  "Just uh,
relax a bit and let me take a look at that cut of yours, ok?
Do you remember where you are? What's your name?"


"Do you know what day this is?"

"Uh.hh" the mother sighed, holding her head. "I'm sorry.
What did you ask me?"

Right then, Alex began to stir and cough and Atkins
lifted away the 02 to see the child opening her eyes.

Mum? Are you there?

Alex's mother didn't seem to hear her.

Mum? the girl repeated, growing scared when her
mother didn't reply back to her. Whats happening?
Why do my clothes stink?

Simultaneously, Engine 36, Squad 51 and Engine
51's radioes all started issuing Sam's voice and tones soon
followed a frantic report that Captain Carter was giving out to L.A.
Headquarters. On what it was, Johnny didn't know. None of what
was said had gotten through his shell shock.

Gage swallowed back his own thudding worry for his
crewmates as he and Atkins efficiently dealt with the
new medical situations in both mother and daughter.

As Alex's and Andrea's pulse rates began to calm with his
reassurances, Johnny's began to rise in stress and alarm.
::Are they ok over there? Roy why aren't you HT hailing me?::
Gage's mind screamed out.

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"I can see him." Alex said." No!! "
The little girl screamed through her simple O2 mask.

Johnny looked down. "Easy. Easy.." he told her.
"What's wrong honey? Y-you can see who?"

Atkins and Gage didn't know what she was talking about.
The little girl's eyes had been bandaged shut for burns
they had found on her eyelids.

"The tall dark haired man in the white and the black hat." she replied,
sudden fear filling her voice with a ring of truth that chilled them both
to the bone.

::Captain Stanley?:: Gage wondered. ::How can she know
what he looks like? She's been unconscious this whole time.::
"Sweety. What--"

"No!  Kelly, not there.. Somebody! Somebody! Get to him
fast. He doesn't want to die!" the little girl wailed.

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From :"patti keiper" <>  
Subject : The Little Voice..  
Date : Fri, 11 Apr 2003 16:21:26 +0000  

Gage rose to his feet, moving to stand directly
on top of the squad's cab. He eyed the brush until
he located where he heard commotion from the chopper
pilot, Roy, Captain Carter and Chet. He made up an
excuse to issue a radio transmission. "Squad 51 to HT
51.." he impatiently called out, knowing that by
procedure, Roy had to answer anything directed at

##HT 51.## came his partner's reply.

Johnny filled him in. "Roy, need ya back here.
Our adult female patient's showing a Glasgow
percentage drop with a new orthostatic BP shift."
Gage practically shouted read-between-the-lines
in his tone as he gave his update. ::What's
going on over there, Roy?..Why the silent line?::
he punctuated fiercely in his thoughts.  "I'd really
like a second opinion on the mother's mental
status for Rampart's next report if you're able."

He jumped back down to the squad's bottle store
niche. Gage studied Andrea's dozing face once
again, keeping a hand on her right radial pulse.
He was still considering the odd statements the little
girl had screamed just a short time ago. As the minutes
stretched by with no more frantic activity through L.A,
he began to feel sheepish for becoming alarmed by

But some inner sense of nervousness remained.
Johnny jumped when he felt a tap on the shoulder.
"Ahhh!!" he said, startling. He spun about in place,
stumbling over his air bottle that he had abandoned
at Atkins' feet and came face to face, with Roy.

"So how ARE they over there?" Gage demanded
of him sharply when his fright had passed.
"Nothing like a little radio silence to torment
all of us over here."

Roy only smiled. "Stoker's got a bruised nose.
And Marco will need to sit on an icepack donut
for a while.. Other than that.." and he shrugged.

Johnny couldn't believe it. "What! That's it?"

"Yep. No one was terribly hurt, pally. Mike just took the
rig into that sandy embankment to stop her
from running away once he felt the tires blow. You
know, sort of like how semi truck trailers sometimes use
those cedar piles on ramps for brake failures up
in the mountains.." DeSoto reasoned. He knelt
and took another blood pressure on a groggy Andrea,
whom Johnny had arranged supine along the other flat
side of the squad's top. Her O2 mask was back in
place and her feet were raised up onto a resting
sideways air bottle.. "Hi there...uh.. " DeSoto asked
the mother.

"Andrea.." Johnny prompted instantly.

"Andrea.." Roy parroted. "How are you feeling?"  

Andrea didn't open her eyes until Roy gently set
a hand onto her arm. He repeated his question.

"Ummm, kinda funny..." she remarked.

"She's not the only one.. " Johnny muttered under
his breath about how he felt about Alex's
bizarre ramblings. He decided to chalk them off as
hypoxia residue and turned up the percentage of
O2 on child's clear oxygen mask. Gage then bent
low to treat and dress the spidery lightning burns
on Alex's shoulder.

Roy checked the mother's IV and O2 flow. "Ok..
My partner tells me you are a little fuzzy on
recent details. Did you feel this funny way before,
or after we escaped the wildfire?"

Andrea's eyes wandered from Roy's face
and she fell to watching the D5W IV dripping
into her arm that Dr. Brackett had ordered.
"What fire?" she said. "Are there more people
hurt besides me?"

DeSoto's smile fell away and he drew out his
penlight to examine her eyes. For the time being,
he didn't answer Andrea's questions nor inform
her that Alex was nearby to spare the woman
unnecessary stress. Her pupils were fairly equal,
only red and irritated from the smoke she had been
exposed to. He felt along her neck for telltale signs
of stiffening or tenderness. She didn't react adversely
to his probing. Nor did Roy find anything but ash when
he checked out her head once more for signs of injury.
"Still negative here." he said to Johnny.

"Yep.. So, what do you think?" Gage agreed.

It was only a few seconds before Andrea faded
enough to want to close her eyes again. Roy watched
her breathing rate. "Don't know yet. The BP's 88 systolic
and her resp rate IS shallowing. Just like what you've got
written down here." he said. Then he rubbed his chin,
thinking about what else he could check for. Then he
had an idea. "Johnny, did you take a BP on her other arm
for comparison?"

Gage looked up from where he was wrapping
the child warmly into a dry blanket. Johnny's
slight look of dismay said it all. "Oops." he
mouthed silently. Then out loud he said. "I was
kinda distracted by all the excitement with the
engine, Roy." he said.

Atkins was still doing his part in keeping the little girl
awake and oriented by giving her his helmet to feel while
she waited for her ambulance to arrive."I think we all were."

Roy turned to get his baseline BP. He nodded as he got the
second reading. "It's different, Johnny. 110 over 84." and
he slipped into a closer neural exam on Andrea that included
a babinski's check and a limb movement equality exam.
Her left side presented as weaker despite Alex volunteering
that her mother was left handed. Roy noticed that she didn't
seem able to grip his fingers with any great strength on that
side nor push down with her left foot normally. His mind started
churning possibilities. ::Did she get this way from hitting the
squad's dash when I stopped?:: he wondered. Then he shook
his head immediately dismissing that angle.. ::That
facial cut's sitting on the LEFT side and it's minor. It can't
possibly be the cause of her deficit now. These mis-reactions
are too global and, well.. old. There's some subtle atrophy in
her muscles on the effected side. Wait a minute. Maybe her
symptoms are tied to a pre-existing condition that the fire
exacerbated. That would explain why we didn't find anything
grossly wrong with her until now.::

Roy checked the woman's pockets for ID. He found a wallet
in her pants and he leafed through its credit card section.
::Bingo.:: The third card he turned over was one outlining
a handwritten course of treatment for brain cancer. It had
her name on it giving directions to a medical clinic with a
familiar date marked down. "Found it." he said to Johnny.
"She's got a history of cancer. A tumor on the brain." he
whispered, showing Johnny the card. "This is an appointment
reminder about a chemo treatment series, scheduled to
start today.." he said softly.

Johnny looked up in sympathy. "No wonder she
was up here in the hills. I know I wouldn't want
to face that kind of thing on such a beautiful summer
day. Makes perfect sense . Most likely, they were going on
a picnic or something just to forget about things for a while
when the storm came and caused their accident."

Roy picked up the phone receiver and updated Dr. Brackett
on what they had discovered. Kel gave them instructions on
how to make the mother more comfortable and he asked
for the ambulance ETA. "Rampart, L.A. reports its ETA as
seven minutes."

##10-4, 51.# Kel replied.

DeSoto and Gage both looked up as arriving fire crews
rushed on past their scene giving encouraging blasts
from their air horns as they sped by to deal with the
expanding canyon fire.  Johnny grinned when he
saw the company that was stopping for their crashed
engine call. It happened to be Stone's.

Charlie and Gil leaped out of their rescue squad to
assist 51's. Gil gave a low whistle at the sorry condition
of the squad as he and his partner jogged up with their
gear and replacement 02. "You fellas medium rare or
well done?" he quipped.

"Charred.." Gage said. "These two are stable. Histories
and treatments are on the notepad." he said giving it
to him from his pocket. "You relieving us?"

"Yeah." Charlie said. "Go rest up. We'll get them down
from there for ya after we switch over to our equipment
and we'll bring em in for ya since your wheels are gone."
And he laughed at his own joke.

He broke it off when Roy and Johnny didn't smile.
He cleared his throat self consciously before changing
the subject. "Are you ok, Johnny? You look kinda peaked."

"Took some heat and smoke. Nothing major. Somebody had
to ride shotgun up top. We had two too many. Oh, and
watch the girl. I had to block off her air for the worst
of the trip out for about a minute total."

"Gotcha." and the two medics efficiently took over for
Johnny and Roy's scene.

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Captain Stone wandered over to them from his rig.
His reaction was pretty much like Gil's about the melted
tires on the Ward and Dodge, including the sympathetic
whistle and unbelieving head shake. "Everyone still in one

DeSoto crossed his arms over themselves.
"For the most part. Bumps and bruises on the engine
crew." Roy grinned. "Cap's coordinating with Carter on
figuring out the best way for the tow bed to reach
over there. If you're looking for him, he said he would
be hanging by Engine 36 trying to figure out why their
tires didn't melt like ours did."

Gage's face fell into alertness. "Roy. Wait a minute
Wait a minute.. You said Cap left the engine
to come back over here?"

"Yeah, he left there about a minute before I did."
DeSoto grinned, smacking some soot off his pants cuff.

Gage's face levelled into a quiet seriousness that
sobered Roy. "Well I didn't see him. I only saw you
when you scared the snot outta me tapping my shoulder
like that."

"That's odd." Roy said. "I-I wonder where he could
have gone?"

"He's probably hiding in the bushes somewhere, embarrassed
to come out here to see me about the reason why he
decided he had to melt both his vehicles down like waxworks."
Ben joked. "He knows I'll tease him about the paperwork."

All three men chuckled.

Captain Stone lifted his HT. "Engine 8 to Engine 51.
Hank, my medics are here and have relieved yours. What's your

The light laughter from them died away when nothing but
static returned.

Something deep inside gripped Johnny and he fidgetted.
His odd nervousness returned and he danced on his feet,
craning a neck over to where he could see Chet milling about
next to the engine.

Some of Stone's men were already fully on the scene.
They were using 51's own water to cool her steaming tire
rims and undercarriage with one of her hoses that hadn't
been singed during their frantic breakout.

"Hang tight. I'm gonna go check on something.."
he told Stone and DeSoto. And he jogged across the field
over to where Kelly was putting a bandaid on the bridge
of Stoker's bruised nose.

Kelly looked up and so did Mike. "Hiya Johnny. Sorry for
not answering your hail. Cap said he would take care of it."

"Yeah, well guys, answer me this. Where is Cap?"
Gage said hurriedly. "He never replied me."

"Isn't he with you fellas by the road?"

"I thought he was with you.." Gage said with a
frustrated pointing gesture.

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Stoker shook his head, feeling up the patch job
Kelly did on his tender nose when he was through.
"Hey, Chet, I think you put this on crooked." he
complained, peeking in the engine's soot streaked
door side mirror.

Kelly smirked at Mike. "You look beautiful, Stoker."
*Smooch* he kidded.

Stoker made a face. "Think I'll go get someone
else to fix this then. I know, I'll go get one of
Stone's medics to give me an honest opinion on
the efficacy of your bandaging job. Roy and Johnny
just may have to re-train you on how to do it
right, buddy."

"And I think you scarred me for life, pal, by crashing
into that hillside. Just look at my elbow,
Stoker! I freaked pretty bad running over here
to get to ya. I don't see you patching ME up..!" he
bellowed. "Some gratitude, man.. Geesh.." Kelly said at
Mike's departing back as he flicked some dirt
out of his very minor abrasion with a few fingernails.
"Hey, no sweat about Cap, Johnny. Didya try
hailing him on th-"

"Yes, Chet.." Johnny cut him off. "I just told you that.
And for that matter, Stone just tried to reach him again,

Marco looked up from where he was checking
the underside of the Ward for signs of oil or gas leaks.
He was moving slowly to favor his bruised behind.
No one laughed at his stiffness. "I saw him." Lopez
piped up. " He said he was gonna look over the
front end under all that brush to see whether or
not Stoker crumpled any chrome." he chuckled.
"We got a bet riding on it."

"Well how long ago was that?"

"Oh, about five, six minutes ago." Lopez said. "Once
he knew we were all fine, he grabbed his helmet
and headed that way." Marco indicated.

All three men turned to peer into the thick rhododendrons
covering Engine's 51 steaming front section. "Cap?!"
Gage called out. "Got a minute?!"

Hank didn't holler back.

Puzzled, the firemen started walking towards the hillside.
Johnny stopped in his tracks when he saw Cap's HT still
laying across the seat of the engine through its open
driver's door. His work gloves were still there, folded
neatly on top of the transmission live radio.

Kelly noticed that too, "That's weird. He didn't take
his gloves with him. Kinda odd, cause there's still
a lot of superheated metal up there."

Johnny hefted them up and he shoved the gloves
into his pants belt. Gage nervously shifted the helmet
on his head. "Guys, come on. Let's try to find him."

"What's the big deal Gage?" Kelly asked. "Maybe
he changed his mind about checking up on you and Roy
and went to 36's engine for a bit first to check on Carter."

Johnny lifted his HT. "Squad 51 to Engine 36."

##Go ahead, 51.## Carter's calm gravelly voice replied.

"Cap, ..ah" Gage said. "Is our captain with ya ?
We can't seem to pin down his current location."

##Negative. Stone here with me says he still
can't raise Hank either.##

"That tears it.." Johnny said. A thick dread filling his
stomach. He put on Hank's gloves and moved to the
equipment compartment of the engine for a safety belt
and a coiled figure eight of rock rope.

The other guys watched him in surprise.  Chet spoke
up. "Gage, why are you getting so worked up here?
Cap's around. He always is. He's probably just
someplace nearby figuring out a way to get the tow
guys back in here to-"

That annoyed Johnny. "Have you ever known Cap
to wander a scene without his HT?" he insisted

"Well,... no..not exactly.." Kelly stammered.

"It's never, Chet. Now come on and help me into
this.." he said. "Then get yourself geared up too.
I'm calling for a scene search."

"Johnny, don't you think you're over reac--"

Gage hit his HT call out. "Engine 51 to HT 51
and all Engines. Captain Stanley may be missing
from the scene. His last known position was with
Engine 51. We're beginning a search from our
10-20. We need immediate assistance."

##10-4...## came multiple replies. Stone, Roy
Atkins and Carter soon came running from the road to
rendevous with Gage and the others.

Stone was pacing along side Gage when they began to
cut through the underbrush, fighting their way to
the front side of the engine and into the narrow
arroyo its hood was jammed up against. Once
there, he found a hand saw on the ground where
Cap had apparently been doing the same thing.
"Here, Ben. "Johnny shouted. "Looks like he came this way.."
Captain Stone joined Gage and squeezed into the small
space that was blocking their way to the open tangle
of brushy slope angling in front of the engine.

Johnny had just pushed through and was standing
up when his feet tottered on the edge of a yawning
hole in the grass. He pinwheeled in panic with a shout
until Ben pulled him back away from the weakened spot  
that had creaked woodenly beneath his weight.

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The others behind them held up when Ben gestured
for them to freeze. "Hold it! Hold it! There's a hole
here!" he snapped at them.

Ben cautiously inched forward to look where Johnny had
almost fallen and his face furrowed. "Looks like an old
abandoned well. Careful, everyone. The shaft's lip may
be bigger than it appears because of all this old overgrowth."

They all dropped to their stomachs and crawled forward
until they could peer down into its darkness around the
rotten boards they found there. Two of the boards were
newly cracked and there was a steaming redness
streaked across one of them. Ben reached out a hand to
touch some and he brought it to his nose. "It's blood."

"Cap?!!" Kelly called out urgently.

Johnny drew out the flashlight he had snatched along
with his gear and aimed it down into the hole. He
could just hear the sounds of gurgling water far
below and his light's feeble beam caught something
shiny hanging on a root. It was Cap's helmet. "I was
afraid of something like this." Gage said quietly
worried. "Didn't feel right about him."

Stone got on the radio. "Engine 8 to L.A. and all
units at 51's incident. We've a man down a well
beneath a fire engine. Respond a cave specialist team
and a heavy excavation equipment detail to our
crash scene."

##10-4, Engine 8. Your time out. 16:12.##

Tones began to peel out eerily over their talkies
as Gage and Kelly continued to shout down the
crumbling shaft. "Cap! Can you hear me?" Gage

Kelly's face was tight with tension and he
swallowed nervously as the echo of their voices
died away and bounced around inside the dripping
shaft without a responding reply. He looked up at
Ben, Roy, Carter, Johnny, Atkins and Stone.
"Sounds like there's an awfully strong current
at the bottom. I think the lower half of the
shaft's flooded really deep."

"Could be a well broken through into a mine shaft."
Carter suggested. "This whole park's riddled
with old abandoned digs. I personally know
of five underground passages which carry water
towards the flooded quarry just over that hill.
This clearing may be a place where slideouts during
fire years occur regularly. See where rain has weakened
the hillside here? A boulder may have broken through,
creating this fissure into the well, when your engine
came barreling against it, out of control."

Atkins was only just slipping into repelling gear.
He marvelled at Gage already being so well
equipped for a vertical descent. "Did you listen
to the little voice we're both thinking of to figure this

"Who knows for sure, man. I just want to get
down there, Atkins. Now."

Kelly and the others rapidly placed a ladder
over the hole that they had grabbed from
the engine.

Roy laid a calming hand on Johnny's back.
"Yeah, well we'll be down there quick enough.
Stone's tying off our ropes to the engine's front
winch as we speak."

Gage's heart sank into an icy chill when his
flashlight kept finding more and more places along
the shaft's jagged walls where bloody smears marked
the staining that Cap's body had left behind as it

He still could see nothing of Hank.

Johnny's mouth went dry as he peered into the
pitch black of the wet rotten hole. "Tie them
off faster, guys! He can't wait. I'm seeing a lot
of blood down there." he snapped at the men
grunting and squeezing through the undergrowth
around the hole to reach the engine's grill and
bumper. And the power winch. "Be ok, Cap. Just
be ok.."

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From : "Cory Anda" <>  
Subject : The Inner Life  
Date : Sat, 12 Apr 2003 02:16:58 +0000  
Hank Stanley groaned as he awakened
to an eerie greenish darkness. He was upright,
hanging on a wall by the back of his collar on a
splinter of wood and his helmet was gone.
"Whaa?" he said out loud. "What?" he said again
as he opened his eyes to a feeble glow coming
from below him. There was a roaring
in his ears. ::Did I hit my head?:: he wondered
and he took in a couple of deep breaths. ::Maybe not,
cause I don't feel any pain. ::Then Hank realized what
the noise was. ::My legs. That's why they're cold.
They're dangling in this rushing water up to my thighs .
Am I in some kind of riverbed?::  Then he realized that
wasn't the case. Peering about, he realized that he was in
an old mining chamber at a junction of a vertical shaft
where it met the ceiling of another flooded horizontal
passage. Just ahead of him, he could see an ominous
gurgling whirlpool rotating at the end of the dead end
passage about thirty feet downstream.

He tried to shift his head but a warning creak
of sagging nails on the shattered wood holding
his jacket, halted him. They dropped him a couple of inches
in his precarious place. :"Ahh!." And Hank froze, trying
to still the motion of his legs dragging in the fast flow
beneath him. ::Don't want to fall in. That water
sounds deep and I can't tell where all that
water's going for sure...::

He spent another minute or so flexing his limbs slowly
and Hank decided that he was fairly intact, all things considering.
Until he glanced down at his right hand and realized that
it was red with actively streaming blood. ::Oh,..
I got an artery..:: he realized, licking his dry lips.::Gotta
s- stop that..::  Already, his head was full of fuzz and
a nauseating thirst was thickening his tongue. Moaning,
Cap reached into his pocket and found the nasal cannula
that he had shoved there from the little girl's mother earlier
as they loaded her daughter up onto the squad for their
desperate escape through the fire. He rigged a half hitch and
looped it tight around his upper arm over his coat on his
bleeding side and did it again before he tightened it with an
adjustable knot with his teeth and other hand. He pulled
until he could feel the thudding pulse beating in his lacerated
arm, only quitting when he felt his fingers growing tingly
and numb. Gasping, he let go of his tourniquet and
he drifted in a sea of dizziness.

A few minutes later, he looked down and saw that the
fast trickle of blood was now reduced to a slow rain of
drops that fell into the rapid flow of water beneath
him. ::That did it.Ugh.. Hope it doesn't come loose on
me. This plastic doesn't make very good rope.:: He
looked around and up above him. Very far away, he
could see a patch of daylight over his head and he
could vaguely hear eerie echoes of..::Those are
L.A. dispatchs! I'm hearing Sam over an HT!::

"Hey!! "   he shouted and immediately winced when that
effort shot pain through his circulation stopped arm.
"Agh...hh." he moaned and his consciousness began to drift
as nausea rose up to sicken him. Hank barely kept his
stomach by reaching down and splashing some of
the water rushing by onto his face with his good arm.

Then he began to regret his actions when a mild shivering
set in. ::I'm going into shock. ..I....probably lost a
fair bit of my total volume here.:: he thought. Taking a
gamble, Hank grabbed a chrome polishing rag he had
taken with him to the front of the engine on his trip to
seal the bet, from his other pocket. He held it in the water
swirling about him until it was fully wet. Gasping and
shaking, he wrung it out into his mouth and swallowed the
rank liquid slowly. ::Tastes awful. But I gotta....gotta get
my fluid level up or I'll pass out..::

Hank drank until his sharpening nausea stopped him. A couple
of times, Cap almost lost what he had taken in and it was only
a sheer effort of will that saved him from vomitting it
all out again. Hank was rewarded a minute later with a
clearer head and soon, the chamber he was trapped in
stopped spinning around and around in his vision.

"CAP ?! ..CAp ?!......Cap ?!...........cap... ?!" came
a bouncing echo from above. It was Chet's voice,
mingled with Johnny's.

But Cap's head began to sag as his BP dropped
from his internal chilling and he couldn't respond.
He slipped into a half state, eyes staring into the
noisy whirlpool filled with green underwater light
just ahead. He began to drift and dream..

Captain McConike walked the line in front of his new
firemen cadets and stopped in front of one very very
tall, gawky young French looking man, who towered
a head over him. He dipped his head to read the
man's name tag.. "Henry...Stanley.." he read myopically.
"Hank.. uh, Hank. S-sir.. Only my mother calls me Henry. And
uh, pastor."  Hank immediately bit his lip nervously
for talking out of turn in the inspection line. He had heard
so much about McConike's reputation on being merciless to
any probies assigned to his station who dared break protocol
on anything. He froze at attention when his new captain gave
him a once over glance from his hours long polished shoes to
his starched white dress hat. "Hmm... " the man regarded Hank
thoughtfully. Hank could just feel the other probies twitching
in sympathy for him as he fell under the gun.

Hank felt his upper lip start to bead with sweat.

McConike said gruffly. "Uniform's fair Mr. Stanley. You only
missed some polish on that button."

"Which button where?" Hank said looking down.

McConike immediately swept up his index finger and caught
Hank by the nose, making him lift his head in a Three
Stooges move. He began to laugh uproariously and so
did Hank's fellow newbies. The humor had just the opposite
effect on Hank, who's face flushed nine shades redder than
the engine he was standing in front of.

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The Golden Horn

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