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    The Helper's              High
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The Story Unfolds...

Season Six, Episode Forty Nine

§§    The Helper's High   §§

Debut Launch: October 1st, 2007.

From: "Erin J." <>  
and "Patti" <> in a tandem
story posting. Meeting by Patti, Station Scene by Erin.
Date: Thursday, October 25, 2007 6:46 PM
Subject: When Brain Cells Die..
It was very early at Rampart.

And those available paramedic teams from the county who could attend
the monthly meeting, were there in chairs already gathered inside of
Doctor Brackett's office. Roy and Johnny included.

Kel turned his eyes toward the five sets of crews again from the slideshow
he had been concluding about the budget of supply ordering they all
had available that quarter. "I just came across this. I know it is just one study
and we really can't draw any conclusions right now until more is done, but I
thought some of you all may have some opinions.." he said, glancing up
as he turned off the projector he had been using.

Someone kicked on the lights in the room and more than one firefighter
squinted painfully at the stimulus, grunting.

Brackett noticed. "I know you're all tired. I'll make this short as possible.
Because quite frankly, I found this new concept rather fascinating." he
admitted with a nod. He set down his chalkboard pointer. "How do we die,
gentlemen?" he said, perching on the edge of his desk, in his labcoat.
"Essentially, what happens when we die of a heart attack?" he challenged.

Rick Minelli, a paramedic from 29's, replied. "Well, if his organs are intact, and
he hasn't lost blood, all that's happened is that his heart has stopped beating."
he shrugged, half in joke.

"Yes, all true. But what else?" Kel asked the room.

No one replied.

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Dr. Brackett launched into the vein that had so captivated him at the last
AMA conference. "Okay, so Rick's given us the definition of "clinical death". That
man's brain essentially has shut down to conserve oxygen. But think about it,
what has actually died?"

All the paramedics frowned, beginning to think a bit, unable to think outside the box.

"As recently as 1973, the conventional answer was that it was when his cells had died.
A cardiac arrest patient in that state can't be revived because the tissues of his brain
and heart has suffered irreversible damage from lack of oxygen. As you all know, that
dying process is understood to begin after just four or five minutes." Kel shared.
"If the patient doesn't receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation within that time, and if his
heart can't be restarted soon thereafter, he is unlikely to recover. True?"

The firefighters in the room muttered in agreement.

Kel went on. "That dogma went unquestioned until last month." Brackett said, holding
up a pointing finger. "Researchers actually looked at oxygen-starved heart cells under a
microscope at the University, and what they saw ...amazed them. According to Dr. Lance
Becker, an authority on emergency medicine, found that after one hour, he couldn't see
evidence the heart cells or any body cells at that point, had died."

Gage's mouth flopped open and he uncrossed his leg from his knee. "What? That's
impossible." he said numbly. "With no breathing or pulse he should have b--"

Brackett began to chuckle. "We thought they'd done something wrong, too. So we checked,
too. On our own donors to science. It is a fact, all cells cut off from their blood supply died
only hours later in their petris dishes."

Roy was stunned. "But.. if the cells are still alive, why can't doctors revive someone
who has been dead for an hour?" he said, making the ironic connection.

Kel's face grew serious. "Because once the cells have been without oxygen for more
than five minutes, they die when their oxygen supply is resumed with any aggressive
resuscitation activity done by us, as first responders."

The room erupted in dismay and shocked babble. Johnny flushed, unpleasantly discomforted.
And he looked to Roy, who was surprisingly vocal along with the others.

Kel hushed them down. "This is why I'm sharing everything we're learning about this
phenomena with you today. We may be on the cresting edge of one of medicine's newest
frontiers: treating... the dead."

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Dr. Brackett's paramedic teams returned to their seats, their coffee cups long forgotten.

They listened as their medical director went over the stunning fix for the facts they just
couldn't believe.  Kel didn't abuse their wounded senses. He told it like it was.
"This new view of cell death suggests the process is not passive extinguishment, like a
candle flickering out when you cover it with a glass, but an active biochemical event
triggered by "reperfusion," or the resumption of an oxygen supply." Dr. Brackett
sat down next to Johnny and engaged his worried eyes. "We know that mitochondria
control the process known as apoptosis. This is the programmed death of abnormal cells
that is the body's primary defense against cancer. Only now, it looks to us," said Kel. "as
if that cellular surveillance mechanism cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and
a cell being reperfused with oxygen. Something throws the switch that makes the cell die
right then. And gentlemen, with this realization comes another.. That standard emergency
room procedure has it exactly backwards when it comes to how to revive someone."

"The process for us as doctors and paramedics are still remaining the same." Brackett
pursed his lips. "Say someone collapses on the street of cardiac arrest, and if he's lucky,
he will receive immediate CPR from some of you in those first minutes, maintaining
circulation until he can be revived in the hospital. But what about the rest who have been
gone 10 or 15 minutes or more without a heartbeat by the time they reach the emergency
department? What happens then? Consider our discovery about those cells. What happens?"

DeSoto's face solidified. "We give them oxygen," Roy whispered. "We jolt the heart with
the paddles, we pump in epinephrine to force it to beat, so it's taking up more oxygen."

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Brackett stayed silent, and grinned levelly, without joy. "And his blood-starved heart muscle
is suddenly flooded with oxygen, precisely the situation that leads to cell death."

Gage was bothered, greatly. "But he's.. he's dead, right? No hope of recovery by.. by ..
by anyone's standards. At least, that's what the books tell us.."

Kel's eyes sparkled with a glowing fire of passion. "And that's what Doctors' Morton, Early
and myself are looking to change, someday. We want to aim on reducing the oxygen uptake,
slow metabolism in these long time but not yet clinically dead people, and adjust their blood
chemistry for gradual and safe reperfusion of oxygen. And we are experimenting with that
by using chilling measures along with the prompt use of a heart lung machine.."

"Isn't that a little expensive?" asked Rick.

"What isn't in medicine nowadays?" Dr. Brackett shrugged.

"Insurance covers a lot of resuscitation care I've found." said Roy. "No one usually minds.."
he said, remembering from the time he had been resuscitated from electrical shock from
a roofing wire. "...when a life's on the line." he agreed.

Kel shared the rest of his news. "Our new study has so far involved just thirty four patients,
but 80 percent of them were discharged from the hospital.... alive. In the old study of
traditional methods, that figure is still hovering at about 15 percent."

"Wow." said Johnny, stunned.

Brackett nodded. "It seems that lowering body temperature from 37 to 33 degrees Celsius
appears to slow the chemical reactions touched off by reperfusion that triggers cell death.
We're working on developing an injectable slurry of salt and ice to cool the blood quickly
that one day, I hope to make part of your standard emergency-response kits."
Brackett concluded. "That's all I have this month. Stay safe out there fellas."

It was very heavy food for thought for all as the squad teams left for their trucks and
the streets.

"Think of the implications, Roy." Gage said, when they were back cruising their route
for the station.

"I'm trying not to. Not too deeply. Just think how many folks are going to die now after
that ten or fifteen minute pulseless mark,... because of us." he said soberly.

Gage was quiet for a long time. But then he tried again. "Dead's dead
right then, Roy, in those situations. Just think of it this way, if we don't try
something. They're dead for sure anyways."

Roy finally relaxed, seeing the wisdom of Johnny's words.


Johnny and Roy returned from the paramedic meeting with Brackett. Roy
commented, “I’ll be honest with you, that’s one of the more informative
meetings we’ve had in a long time.”

Johnny said, “You know it, partner. Definitely a lot of new stuff to think about.”

The guys walked into the kitchen and were greeted by the rest of A shift.
Stoker was manning the coffee pot and asked, “You boys want a cup?”

Roy replied, “Sure.”

Johnny added, “Sounds good. The coffee at Rampart was mud today. I think
one of the students made it.”

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Mike brought over the coffee as Marco finished setting the table. It was a
simple breakfast of eggs on English muffins with bacon on the side. Hank
let the boys eat a bit before he started. “All right guys, before we get into
breakfast and how our days off went, let me touch on a couple of things
from the department.”

Everybody continued eating but now turned their attention to Hank as they
did. Hank continued, “First and foremost, equipment is going to be
stretched thin for a while. Most of the county went down to help in San
Diego with the fiery mess down there. Which means we’re going to have
more ground to cover then normal so stay on your toes, boys. It’s gonna
be a long shift. Secondly, the inspection that was scheduled to happen
later today has been postponed since Chief was called down to San Diego,
too.” he snorted.

Marco chuckled.

“Now for the chores. Marco, you’re cooking again. Chet you’ve got your office..."

Kelly grimaced and rolled his eyes about having to clean the bathrooms.

Stanley ignored him.
"Mike, check out Big Red. I have a feeling we’ll be giving her quite a workout.
Johnny, the dayroom and sweep out the bay, pal. Roy, the dorms are yours.”

The guys finished their food and were all nursing their second cups of
coffee when Hank finished the official stuff. “Now that that’s all taken care
of, how was everybodys' days off?”

Mike started, “Quiet for the most part, the kids weren’t home, so my wife and
I caught up on some much needed 'us' time.” Chet grinned wolfishly. Mike
cut him off before he could say anything, “No, Chet, I’m not giving the details

Chet groaned as everybody chuckled. Roy said, “Busy as usual, huh?" he quipped
at Stoker. "Me, too. Chris won his baseball game yesterday and my youngest helped
Joanne in the kitchen while I tackled the honey to do list.”

Johnny said, “Hey, Roy, I helped, too.” he complained.

Roy chuckled, “Oh, yeah. We promised Johnny some of Joanne’s
home cooking if he helped. Needless to say my honey to do list for  
next month should be quite short. Thanks, Johnny."

Johnny grinned, “Before I helped Roy, I actually went on a bit of a hike. Felt
good. Haven’t been up to the mountains in a while. I kept an eye on the news
and figured if I didn’t hike then, I might not get the chance to for quite a while.”
he said, jerking a finger over to the TV set displaying brush fire news in
the neighboring county that they were all not paying attention to.

Hank smiled, “Good idea, pal.”

Mike looked over at Hank, “So Cap, what did you do with your days off?”

Hank’s grin quickly turned to a blush. “Uh,.. nothing, nothing at all.”

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Chet cut in, “Cap, with that look, I’d say either tell us now or the Phantom
will find out on his own.”

Hank knew Chet was right, “Well, my mother in law is in, but mercifully left
me alone for the most part. I took care of MY honey to do list and then took
my wife out to dinner.” Hank’s blush deepened, “We... decided to add some
extra spice to the evening and went upstairs when we got home.  Yeah, note
to self : Play nice when mother in laws are around. We got a little carried away
as we were, um,... seasoning a little, and broke the bed." he said, stretching
a little stiffly, rubbing his neck. "My mother in law heard the crash and instead
of wanting to know if we were okay, just yelled because we woke her up. So
now we need a new bed and I could personally use an iron lock to keep her
out of the house from now on.”

As much as they tried to hold the laughter back, the guys lost it when Hank
finished his story. Luckily, they had finished their coffee so they didn’t redecorate
the kitchen table, but everybody WAS laughing so hard, that they had tears
in their eyes.

Then the tones rang out.

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Click Johnny's epi for a music soundtrack change.

From: patti keiper <>
Date: Thu Nov 1, 2007 1:17 pm
Subject: The Fiery Display..

##Station 51. Snorkle Nine. Unknown type fire. 713 North Wilson.
713 North Wilson. Cross street Hazeltine. Time out : 9:06.## said
L.A. after the klaxon had sounded.

"Let's go. Marco, turn the stove off." Cap said as he rose from his chair with
less than his normal alacrity and a huge yawn.

Chet noticed. "Still a little stiff?" he teased Hank as the two of them hurried out.

"Nothing a hot shower won't fix later on, I'm sure." Cap grinned.

"Or a cold one." Kelly chittered in amusement under his breath as he yanked
open the rear door of the Ward.

Mike Stoker had already taken the wheel. "It's about five miles away, Cap." he
said to Stanley.

"Well, that's nice for once." Cap sighed. "Fire can't spread that far in just two
minutes. Use your best judgement on our speed. The squad'll no doubt clear
the way ahead of us like usual."

"I'll airhorn at every intersection." Stoker decided.

"Yep. Good plan. That was smart thinking." agreed Hank as he leaned forward
to put his white striped black helmet onto his head.

Both trucks pulled out code three onto the boulevard. Lights and sirens
cleared the road of traffic as they headed towards their destination.

In the cab, Cap realized that they had no forewarned advantage as they got closer
and closer to their assigned address. "Keep heading north. We'll approach this
from upwind standard since we aren't going to be able to see any telltale smoke
until we're on top of it." he said, eyeing up the interfering cloud of brush fire
smoke rising up on the horizon in the next county behind the sprawl of suburban
businesses that they were passing. "There's too much debris already in the air."

Kelly tipped near their ears over the roar of the sirens.
"It's amazing that anybody's still breathing down here today, Cap. With the smog
this bad, I won't be surprised at all if the squad gets called away to a respiratory
emergency before we're done with this fire one..." said Chet. "..whatever it is."

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They rounded the block following Squad 51 and immediately slowed when they saw
what had to be their target. Roy and Johnny were already getting out and into their
turnout jackets. Their heads were angled upwards, in between two tall apartment
buildings just emptying of distressed pajama'ed residents.

Mike Stoker started laughing. "A cinder fire. Up there." he said pointing to something
smoking and moving in the breeze above a picnic table.

A palm tree was fully involved in its crown. Mike politely moved through the crowd
of growing numbers of morning clothed people in their curlers, T-shirts and boxers
in order to get to the hydrant in their midst at the base of it.

A panicky auntie type old woman hollered. "What is it?! I don't see anything on
the roof.." she exclaimed for the fifty or so others who milled about as the fire
alarm continued to sound inside the two apartment buildings.

Marco explained, helping Stoker unscrew a cover on the hydrant to turn on the
pressure with his hydrant wrench. "It's just a tree fire, ma'am. Your buildings
aren't involved at all. They're fine." he explained as he watched Cap jog back to
the engine to call off the snorkle and update L.A. to the situation.

Roy and Johnny joined the firefighters once the hose had been set up from the
reel line. They parked next to Lopez, Cap and Stoker while Chet milled about
in a self chosen job of calming the neighbors and turning off the fire panels inside
the entryways closest to the courtyard where they were all standing.

Roy smiled. "I wonder what set that off." he said, eyeing up the spectacular tree of
fire. It looked for all the world like a flaming lollipop.

Stoker grinned pointing towards the mountains. "Do you feel the Santa Anas any more
stinging your face?" he joked.

Roy concentrated. "Hey yeah, it's dead calm."

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Gage started chuckling. "Well, I'll be. Don't tell me a spark settled up there from that
fire that's still miles away.."

Kelly rubbed his nose, already bored. "More like dozens of miles. Johnny. And just a
lucky ember, too, to land in some dry fronds skirting the top."

A commotion attracted them as a woman in a gaudy pink robe met them.
"Oh, the poor tree." said the old aunt in her pink curlers. "Will it survive after burning up
so bad?"

Roy politely tipped his helmet. "I don't see why not. Palms are monocots, just like corn. And
just as pithy. This tree could react like the fire was actually a drought and resprout its leaves
again with a little extra water."

"But the ban.." she fussed, showing them the notice the city fire department had posted
in their yard on the fence.

Hank noticed her worry. "Tell you what. Once we strip away the blackened sooty parts
still smoking up there, we'll give it a good dousing around the roots before we leave,
okay?" he said to her.

"Oh, what nice young men. Yes, captain. I'm sure our tree would like that very much." she
said with a face shaking nod of gratitude that shook her ample jowls. "A long drink of
water. It must be even thirstier now." she said as Stoker expertedly snuffed the flames and
pulled down the ruined, charred palm leaves so Marco could stomp out remaining sparks.

Hank eyed up what was left of the trunk and its upper tip, poking up forlornly into the sky.
"I'm sure we can fix the problem, ma'am." he said diplomatically. "Why don't you just return
back to your apartment and fix yourself a nice cup of tea while we clean the rest of t-"

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Chet's amused informative chatter gave way to a shout of authority. "Hey, DeSoto, Gage,
get over here! Come quick!"  He was near what was a picnic table area in the middle of
the huge crowd of people still not convinced that the fire danger was over.
"I've found a man down. I think he's unconscious!"

Gage's head snapped around. "Chet? I'll get the gear!" he said, hurrying back towards
the squad.

Hank used his tall height and large bulk to make his way through the crowd of apartment
dwellers until he reached Kelly's side. "What's the problem? A cardiac?" he said, quickly
confirming a pulse at their patient's neck.

Chet straightened up from the respirations he had been checking on a young teen male who
was still seated upright in a lawn chair. His lower half was covered in a beach towel while his
upper half was curiously decorated with an odd kind of sculpture.

"Is he plastered?" Roy asked, seeing what Chet and Cap had seen, as he squatted down
next to the teenager, who was snoring loudly, in a condition that was far deeper than sleep.

"With that kind of signature left behind by his friends? I'd say so." Chet stated seriously.

A stack of empty beer cans was balancing neatly in a tower rising up from the middle of the drunk
boy's forehead. DeSoto sighed and knocked them off so he could better monitor his patient's face.
"Looks like it. Cap, he's breathing normal." DeSoto announced after listening for a few seconds.
"I'll start him on O2, precautionary." he said, turning on the flow on the tank he had brought.

"Try to wake him, too. Maybe his friends'll step forward before he can rat on them about partying
out here in the courtyard all night. That way, we'll learn an identity and maybe the full story." Hank
said. "I'll call the police for him only if I have to."

"You read my mind." DeSoto sighed, tipping the man's head back farther so his snoring ended.

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Stanley nodded. "L.A., Engine 51. Respond an ambulance to our location. We've a teen down
with an altered level, involving possible alcohol ingestion."

Johnny hurried up with all the critical case gear:  the defib, biophone, drug and I.V. boxes. "Roy?"
he asked, eyeing up their patient.

DeSoto finally grinned as he began opening up the passed out man's shirt. "He's fine.
Can't you tell by the unpanicking reactions of all his neighbors? So far, I'm  just smelling
ETOH on board. And our neuro check is coming right up.." he began as he rubbed a firm
set of knuckles hard into the young man's sternum.

The kid woke up with exaggerated startlement, his arms and legs flailing like a puppet. "Whaa?
Not, Brandonnn ugh... I's I've.. had enuff.." he declared. His face fell into one of
confusion at the hissing oxygen mask he found sitting over his nose and mouth. He coughed,
pulling it off. "Whoa." he said, looking up and seeing the smoking black stump of a tree
a short distance away. "Did I do something bad last night that I can't remember?" he
mumbled, speaking almost clearly.

Johnny chuckled. "Nothing past excessive drinking. You're innocent of arson if that's what
you're wondering. How do you feel now?" He said, putting the oxygen back on.

The teen turned green. "Rotten. Thanks for making me th- think about it."

Roy inquired gently, looking down. "Just the beer?"

"Yeah..." the kid moaned. "I feel like I'm gonna puke for a week."

An angry mother stepped forward. "Good. And I hope you've learned your lesson, Charles
Emerson Baxter. You should know better than to raid your father's cooler when he's working.
And you're still underage! What's got into your head you fool boy? Now look what you've done.."
she said, pointing to the luckless tree and the pile of beer cans littering the ground around
his chair and the bright red flash of lights bathing them from both fire trucks.

Hank raised his hand, "Uh, ma'am. The wind's to blame for the fire."

The irate mother held up an equally commanding hand.

"But he IS to blame for THIS kind of blaze." she said pointing to her angry features with
an elegant fingernail. "Is my son gonna get it when his father comes home." she promised.
"So no, don't treat him for anything. I want him to feel every pounding moment of
that hangover he's brought on himself, and then some." she said, pulling off the teenager's
rich oxygen supply with a snap of its elastic strap.

Johnny winced almost as bad as the boy.

"Okay. Just sign right here." Cap said, taking the A.M.A. form Gage had pulled out of
the drug box's base compartment to hand to him. "This cancels our care, and the

"Ambulance?!" the mother sputtered. "Oh, Charles, you are in worse trouble now. You're
bothering these fire department paramedics, too?" she said, signing her name to the
signature line with an angry rip of Johnny's green pen that she had 'borrowed' with an
abrupt snatch from where it rested in his shirt pocket. "Now get up. I don't care if you
fall down again. On your feet right this instant. You're gonna drag yourself inside, wash
yourself up, and get right into your bed. When you're sober, YOU'RE the one who's
gonna call up school and tell them why you weren't in today."

The teen rose with alacrity, swaying a bit, but fully conscious. Roy and Johnny's vigil
dropped. "He's not intoxicated to a life threatening level, Cap. We can clear." Johnny
told Hank as they watched the mother lead her tipsy son off by the ear.

"Okay. Marco, Chet, toss the debris into the dumpster. Leaves, beer cans and all. Make
it neat. Stoker, reel the hose back up if you're sure the tree's out for good."

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"It is." Mike promised. "She's good and floating even." he said with a wink for the tree loving

Cap got back on his walkie talkie. "L.A. Engine 51. This palm tree fire's fully extinguished.
No arson investigation needed. It's confirmed natural causes."

##Engine 51, L.A.. 10-4. Time cleared at : 9: 44.##

Chet saundered back after making sure that every last person in the crowd understood
that things were completely safe. "So..." he said, rubbing his hands to warm them.
"Chuck didn't upchuck." he said grandly to the paramedics amicably.

"Nope." giggled Gage.

"But he will later." Chet said. "And I'm speaking from experience here." he said.

Gage laughed out loud. "You? Having a past reputation as a party animal? That'll be
the day."

"It's all true. Just ask my sister next time you see her."

"No thanks.." Roy teased. "Some things a guy just doesn't need to know. Like our
mutual conversation topic of this morning..." he prodded.

"Hey...I didn't pry." Kelly said, grinning as he got back into the engine for the trip home.
He shut the door behind himself soundly.

Gage glanced up at Hank and Roy. "Well, maybe somedays, he DOES learn." he
said in amazement.

"Enjoy it while it lasts.." said Cap, rubbing his tired eyes. "Okay, that's good. Call us
in as returning to base, Roy, would ya? I wanna write this report now while I can still
recall all the gory details." he quipped with a roll of sarcastic eyes. "Guess I'm getting
a little fuzzy because I'm still hungry." he said.

"Eating'll fix that, Cap. All right, I'll call in for ya." said DeSoto, closing the last lock on the
store compartments holding their gear. "Johnny, are ya ready?"

Gage nodded and for an answer, leaped into the squad cab eagerly, thinking of the
hot breakfast they had all had to abandon.

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From: Erin James (
Subject: Bunch Brunch
Sent: Thu 11/01/07 8:25 PM

Mike turned his attention back to the road. Cap for his part was trying to
ignore the road and the rather short, but unpleasant report ahead of him.

In the squad, both Johnny and Roy were thinking about breakfast.

Johnny said, "Hey partner, you mind if we eat before we write?"

Roy smiled, "Not at all. I'm thinking everybody's still hungry, too."

Any further reply from Johnny was cut off as both trucks backed into the station.
The trucks emptied and Marco asked, "Okay, who can handle what today?"

Hank replied, "I'm game for anything but a lot of spice. It's still a bit early for that."

Marco smiled. He knew his crew mates didn't have quite the stomach he
did for spices. "Not a problem, Cap."

Mike said, "We might as well start knocking out the chores while Marco cooks.
Marco, I'll be out here. If you need anything. Just holler."

"Will do." said Lopez.

The crew broke up. Hank grumbled over his lack of food. ::All right stomach,
I'm listening.!:: he thought. He grabbed a can of soda from the fridge in the
kitchen then headed for his office. :: To write that blasted report.::
Hank grumbled as he sat down. "Paperwork. Way too much paperwork. Even
on the small calls." He started in, highly distracted by his growling guts.

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At the same time, the rest of the crew decided to tackle their chores. They
knew they'd have to be ready for a lot more than usual, so the guys quickly
went to work on their chores.

Marco looked through the slim pickings in the kitchen and decided to pull together
a hearty but mild brunch. He started whistling as he decided his plans.

Once he was done detailing Big Red, Mike walked into the dayroom to check
on the fires. It looked like all of Santa Barbara County was working them on
the news that was still broadcasting the event live.

Forty-five minutes after the crew arrived back, brunch was ready.
Marco walked out into the bay and yelled, "Chow's up."

That brought the stampeding feet of the others in. Hank still wasn't
smiling as he trailed in last.

Nearby, as he sat at the table, Roy noticed the news, "Anything good, Mike?"

Stoker grimaced, "They still can't really contain the beast. And they think it
might be arson. Although it's a bit too soon to tell."

Johnny groaned and shook his head, "Oh, that's just lovely." Johnny quickly
set the table as Roy got the drinks. "Those are the worst kind."

"Nothing for us today though. Glad it's them." Stanley mumbled sternly.

Roy cast a look towards Hank, who was quietly eyeing up the rolls.

"Ok, guys. I'm just a bit more grumpier than normal today. Didn't eat quite as
much as I should have before work." Hank admitted, apologizing.

"That's okay, Cap." Kelly dismissed, still mesmerized by the TV set.

The guys sat down to a large brunch of eggs, bacon, chicken fried steak and
gravy, and steamed vegtables. Chet smiled, "Jeepers, Marco, maybe we
should have brunch more often." he said when the smell finally captured his
full attention.

Marco smiled, "Nah, mi amigo, this is just because..." He cut himself short
because he didn't want to jinx the shift as a long or bad one. The others
understood and didn't say anything else.

When the guys were mostly done, and with his hunger gone, Hank asked, "Roy,
Johnny, anything interesting out of the meeting this morning?"

Roy said, "Mostly the same old stuff, but Brackett did come up with a very
interesting story."

"Oh?" said Stanley, leaning on his elbows tiredly.

Johnny replied, "Yeah."

Chet whined, "Well, spit it out, Gage."

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"All right, Kelly, don't get your bunkers in a knot."  Johnny took a quick drink of
milk. "He told us that rewarming a victim is one of the most hazardous aspects
of hypothermia because the cold-constricted capillaries can open all at once,
causing a sudden drop in blood pressure."

Roy nodded, adding more. "And that the heart, still cold, can lapse into deadly

Lopez piped up. "Oh, I've heard about that.  Wasn't it just last year, when a crew of
shipwrecked Catalina fishermen were hauled to safety after spending an hour and
a half in the winter sea? The news said they stepped below deck for a hot
drink, and dropped dead, all sixteen of them."

The rest of the engine crew were stunned and amazed. Chet couldn't pass up the
opportunity, "A hot drink and drop dead, huh..  Gage did you make them
something that day?"

Roy, Marco, Mike and Hank groaned. It was going to be a long shift if the
kid sides of Johnny and Chet were starting in early.

Johnny didn't miss a beat. "Nah, Kelly. They had must have had some of
your 'healthy' cooking." he said without changing his expression or looking up.

Chet's jaw snapped shut, for once, unable to think of a reply.

Roy lifted his coffee cup in salute, "Ah, the pigeon is sharp this morning."
he grinned at his partner.

"Told ya I cleared my head in the mountains. Yeah I'm sharp." Gage said
to DeSoto.

Chet groaned as the guys laughed good naturedly when Johnny pretended
to slick back his hair with style.

Once everybody was done eating, Marco asked, "Anybody want

Varied "no thanks but it was amazing" replies rang out. Marco smiled
and started to clear the table. The others headed over to catch up on the
news while they still could.

But they didn't get the time. Just as Marco finished washing the last dish, the
klaxon rang out again. Hank muttered, "At least we were able to finish a meal this
time." he added as the crew headed out for the apparatus bay.

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