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   The Long Hot Summer
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Page Six

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From:  patti keiper (
Sent: Sat 5/09/15 11:01 PM
Subject:  Dante's Inferno

Mike Stoker immediately leaped to a large section of the parking lot that had no cracks in it to shield
his feet from the intense subterranean heat and fire gushing out of every fissure surrounding them.
"I'm going to V-Tac-One to the park I.C. I think that's the only way to reach anybody." he told Marco.

Lopez made the jump with him to stable ground but had to butt lean on a light pole's base as his
breathing efforts came still agonizingly slow. "Switching.. " he gasped, turning his own radio
to the new slot.  "I'll start eyeballing victim numbers while you.." he puffed, breaking off when he
ran out of breath..."get somebody on the horn. I can't do much more than that yet." he said,
leaning his head down with his hands braced on his knees to rest.

The parking lot was eerily empty of people amid the blast debris sprinkled cars. ::Those who
could run, got out of Dodge. A good sign. Any who've died are probably still in the store under
all that mess.:: Mike thought. "We're getting you looked at, first thing." Stoker promised. "Take
Safety. Spot out any danger. I already see the asphalt sagging into the ground in a lot of places.
Come on. We're going to find a better spot than this."  

Marco's face was dotted with blood that wasn't his own. He grunted as he shifted back onto
his feet with care. He was in difficulty and was no longer trying to hide it. "D@mn. This is a huge
red zone, Mike. Is there a safe place? If there is, I'm not seeing it." Lopez coughed, intently
scanning the landscape as they limped out into the open.

Mike slung Marco's arm over his shoulder to help him along. "Let's head for the street.  There
are cars there, maybe we can find somebody still level headed enough to pick us up." he
said, watching drivers either panic flee or crash into pieces of burning roofing that had been
cast out by the gas explosion.

"In your dreams. They're civilians. They're going be doing this crazy stuff all night." Lopez groused.
"They probably don't even see us. And what about Chet and Johnny? I thought I heard them
reporting from right next door to us at the Y."

The recreational center couldn't be seen at all due to the black smoke column rising from the
ruined footprint of the department store. It was being blown westward by the wind. The two
firefighters made a beeline east and upwind, heading for clearer air. "They're victims until
we hear them deny it personally. But we're not looking for them right now. Not with you like
this." Mike panted as he thought hard about their immediate situation. "I won't let you."


"Marco.. you're hurt. Cap'll have my hide if I let you do anything past lifting a few fingers in an
honest wave for help."  Finding a bus bench at the curb of the main drag, Mike deposited
Marco onto it just long enough to do that electronically. The engineer toggled the priority PTT on
his handy talkie to broadcast over the new priority channel.  "Break. Break. Break. HT 51 to
Hancock I.C.. E-Emergency traffic. This is emergency traffic from HT 51." his voice quavered.

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There was an instant pause in F.D. chatter as all working fire crews fell into silence to hear
Stoker's transmission start. Battalion Seven acknowledged a return. ##HT 51, this is 7. I note
your priority. The channel's yours.##

"We're at the core of the blast, 3rd and Fairfax. Point of origin, K-mart. The structure's totally
collapsed. There are high apparent civilian casualties inside. A major underground fire is working
with widespread subsidence. Our region's talk tower is destroyed. I've one Code I at my location.
Also two fire crew who may be missing. We need a bug out and a search." Mike concluded.

##Responding all available units to the perimeter of the incident plus 500 feet. Kicking P.D. at
you. Hang tight, and listen for him. Sound off every five with your status. ## said the far distant
chief on the burning park's hillside.

"10-4. Will do. HT 51 out." Mike Stoker felt a wave of relief wash over like a balm but he dared
not relax. Adrenaline was still making him shake in a palsy everytime he moved. Thinking ahead,
he cracked open a nearby hydrant with his jacket tool and let it run rampant in a protective
buffering fountain of water that began pooling at the fringes, around their bus bench, in a noisy
geyser. ::Signal and solution.:: he thought. "Gotta love fire department training." he
said out loud, grinning at Marco.

"Stoker, no way am I rolling in that water." Lopez tried to joke tightly, in pain.

"You will if the street opens up straight into a fiery H*ll. Then we'll both be begging for it.
You're forgetting how fast asphalt destabilizes when it heats up."

"Uh, yeah. I'm not enjoying remembering that bit of trivia. Why are we here at the curb?"

"It's the only thing not on fire." Mike said grimly, eyeing up the still normal pavement cracks
stretching around and through their intersection along its seams.

Marco's eyes soon shifted to the smoke column that was obscuring the sight of the YMCA.
"Come on. Come on, guys. Do something smart. Tell us you're still alive and..." he broke off as
a horrid image of immolation and flailing suddenly filled his head due to his overactive imagination.
Lopez seriously began worrying about Gage and Kelly. And he began to look at his watch, counting
down every crawling second a man might possibly spend while suffocating in a room full of ground

From:  patti keiper (
Sent:  Sun 5/10/15 8:53 PM
Subject: Fricasse'

Captain Stanley nearly levitated out of the engine cab when the eastern sky lit up in
a colossal explosion. "Oh, no, no, nonono!" he shouted in a rage as a nightmare
scenario flowered into hideous life in front them.  He grabbed for his HT.
"Engine 51 to Squad 51.".. he hailed.  *Hssst  spap*  There was only static.

It was then he realized that their usual channel tower had been lobotomized by the
force of the blast. ::I'm definitely not seeing it on the hill any more. Fine. There's
a way around that. We'll do this old school.:: he mentally decided. Hank brought
the engine to a stop along the nearest curb and lit up every light he had on his panel to
advertise themselves as a beacon for any and all who might find them.

Engine 51's feeble flashing lights under the setting afternoon sun became washed
out and indistinguishable from the eerie red color of the flames licking up from the earth
inside the sky scraper bowl of the downtown district far below them.

Snatching a pull cord fast, he sounded the engine's airhorn in three short blasts to
break Roy, in the squad, out of his stunned instinct to rush into the new fire zone.
He saw Roy kick on the squad's emergency lights, too, and screech to a halt about sixty
feet ahead of both a hydrant and a street side payphone.  They both met each other on
the run in between their two vehicles. DeSoto had left the medical gear stowed. With
him were pry tools and air tanks.

"Yeah those. And let's find a working channel!" he ordered, keeping his eyes on the
twisting fire ball rising from the heart of where his men were.  New flames began to
sickeningly widen everywhere and rise to waist level above every concrete fissure and
weak spot five hundred feet down the block. "Judas Priest! That's a monster pocket.
Roy, how big would you say? He's gonna want to know a.s.a.p."

DeSoto was breathing hard as he fitted the last of his breathing apparatus on over his
face and tested it. "Two, maybe three blocks long.  And I'd say about twice as wide."

"This is as good a staging area as any. We're on a rise with a good vantage point."
Cap nodded, flipping off the dead channel and onto the only other local fire department
one. He got on the horn. "Engine 51 to Hancock I.C."

##Go Engine 51.## replied the chief at the park fire.

"Active subterranean burns are erupting roughly from La Brea Ave to La Cienega Blvd to
Pico and Melrose, encompassing all of the Miracle Mile neighborhood. We're setting up a
command post at.... Fairfax and Beverly one block west of what looks like a
medical center.  I have a landline option and water." he reported.

##10-4. Origin point was K-Mart according to one of your men. He's with another.
Two of yours have not reported in. I've sent S and R their way. You are I.C. for
downtown. Maintain your post and start directing arriving fire to evacuate downtown
inside any coordinates you stipulate. Make your medic head of triage in a sheltered
area next to you. Use full scba gear. We don't know what gas is being fried.## came
the order.

"10-4, Battalion." Cap replied. "We're in our tanks. I copy assume Incident Commander
Two with my paramedic as Triage One. Will affirm when setup to relay is complete."

## I've got Copters Two and Ten in the air to be our eyes, I.C.. One, out.##

Roy looked up and saw a car hastily run up onto the sidewalk and onto a lawn. One
of the driver's sleeves was on fire.  He and Cap grabbed out an asbestos blanket
and got there just as the older man bailed out of his car. Quickly they snuffed it
as they tackled him flat to handle it.

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"Firemen?  I'm okay. I'm okay!! I think it was a cinder. What happened? It's raining fire
down there!"  said the gray haired man, shucking off what was left of his scorched shirt
to stop the heat.

"Gas touched off in a basement. How many people have you seen injured, mister?"
Roy asked.

The man fought for breath but DeSoto knew it wasn't medically related. "Not
one. Just ...just people like me trying to get out."

"Okay.." said Cap, helping the man to his feet. "Get in your car and evacuate. Go 101
via Sunset. It's up to you whether or not to pick up anybody who's in trouble to take
to a hospital along the way. Your safety comes first."

"I know that.. I.. I'll do it anyway." said the driver. "God help any one who's still in the
middle of that."  And then he was gone.

One by one, then by the dozens, careening, tire squealing cars flew out of the downtown
area, escaping the growing inferno forming along the cracks of the city. Nobody stopped
by Engine and Squad 51.

Cap and Roy began to feel very small very quickly.


"That was the K-mart I'll bet!" Johnny hissed, wincing from the aftermath of his ringing ears.

Kelly shook his head to regain back the rest of his equilibrium. ::Once again, my helmet's done
its job.:: But then fear took hold. "Marco and Stoker were there, Johnny. It was a basement check."  
Chet cast his head about nervously as the power flickered around them and went out.

Gage remained mute, hiding every reaction to that undeniable fact that he knew to be true.

When the deafening sound of flaming debris falling onto the roof of the Y stopped, Chet and Johnny
looked up from underneath the desk where they had hauled the screaming college receptionist.
She was quiet now, and dazed. She didn't seem to see that the glass windows of the lobby
surrounding them had spiderwebbed in the force of the explosion.  "uh.." she grunted, finally
reaching up to her face. Kelly prevented her. "Gage, she's got a large cut on the side of her head."

"Find something to put pressure on it. First check for any glass." he told Chet.
Johnny took in a few deep head clearing breaths as he freed up his HT from one of his
turnout pockets and fiddled with it.  "These are dead." he shared, stuffing it back into his jacket.

"Way ahead of you, Gage. Maybe that's only for this block." Kelly snorted. Then he turned his
attention back to their first victim. "Hey, Alex. Are you with me yet? Tell me how many people
are here today. We're gonna need to know this so we can get everybody out."  

"Ow.." she flinched as the curly haired fireman pressed a towel he had found from a used
gym bin nearby over her cut.

"Sorry. We have to stop the bleeding." he said to her. "Can you answer the question?"

"Desk top." Alex shivered. "We've a guest sign-in sheet. And there's a staff check-in list, too."
she whispered. "I'm so scared right now." The dusty red haired college student began to cry.

"Hey.. There'll be no more loud noises,.. I can almost guarantee that from what I'm seeing." Gage
said snatching down the slateboards with the names down into their shelter spot. He clicked on his
flashlight. "Chet, all the sidewalks are burning. We're going to have to come up with another way
outta here past the front door.  We've got another way to talk out though." he said, jabbing a gloved
finger at the desk.

"Got it." Chet said, grabbing the phone off of the desk and pulling it down to the floor where they
could reach it to dial out. "You got her?"

"Yeah." Gage said, beginning to examine Alex in a little more detail with his light. "Looks
like this hemorrhaging's starting to clot up just fine." he said for her benefit. "Alex, are you
hurting anywhere else? I'm a paramedic. I can do a lot about that if you are."

"You're a what?" she mumbled. "I.... think I'm... I'm okay."

"He's good with bandaids, miss." Kelly added. "Even I'd let him at it."

"Maybe later.." she frowned. She hadn't missed the flirting earlier on, one iota, from Gage.

"I've got a tone." Kelly said, holding up the phone receiver. He dialed out to L.A.
"This is HT 51 in the YMCA off Fairfax and 3rd. Could you let our I.C. know that we're
mobile and able and working on an escape route with the victims who are in this building?
Yeah. Gage and Kelly of Station 51. ..OhHHhh. Our tower IS down. Yeah, we know about
that. We'll check in occasionally on payphones and landlines when we find them. We're
not injured. We've one girl around 22 who is, so far. A minor injury. Yeah, all right, every
half hour to check in." He hung up the phone. Then he eyed up Gage as he finished taping
up a dressing over Alex's laceration from a first aid kit he had found on the wall by the desk.
"We're to use Hancock's channel only in emergencies. It's now captains and chiefs only."
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"Terrific." Johnny scowled. "Maybe I should just use smoke signals instead of the phones.
Might work better once the city services kick up into high gear."

"Yeah, the lines are going to jam when folks catch on about what's happening for sure."
Chet said. "Alex, do you think you can sit up back into your chair. We'll let you rest a
minute or two before we start a building search."

"Can't I just leave now? The medical center's just down the block. I feel fine."

"It's not safe." Johnny said, shaking his head. "If you come with us, we could
use your help since you know the layout of the place."

"Okay." she said timidly. "I'll just go put my sweater on." she fake smiled half
heartedly without enthusiasm or confidence.

Kelly and Gage immediately shoved the desk over to the windows and climbed on
top of it until they could look out above the shattered lattice cracks on all the
lower panes of the windows.

"Subsonics. Definitely a basement blast." Johnny commented to Chet. "Glass's
intact by the ceiling."

"Wind's east to west." Kelly added. "And steady. The column's all black."

"What are you guys doing up there?" Alex asked once she had the two name
slates and the first aid kit stuffed into her purse to carry along.

""We're reading the smoke changes." Johnny replied, eyeing up the deepening dusk sky.

"What are you? Part Indian?" she said sarcastically, folding her arms over her elbows
to hold some heat in.

Gage grinned crookedly at her. "Yeah." And then he actually chuckled. "Okay, Chet. Time
for the first sweep." He grabbed up a shovel from the closet to use if they needed it as
a break through tool.

"Alex, find a coat to put on over your clothes from a closet or from your locker. It'll
protect you from anything sharp." Kelly suggested, pulling out his own flashlight.

"I've got a rubberized rain coat." she offered.

"That'll work." Gage said. "Where's the closest spot to check first for people?" he asked her.

"Uh, the pool. Ned's got a swim class going on right now.  Five kids on the register." Alex

"Uh huh. And next?" Johnny said, reaching out for her hand to guide her over some debris
on the floor in the dark.

"The playground.  Steve has two sets of parents with one toddler each to coach."

"Any others?" Gage prompted, halting in front of a closed door to feel all edges of it first for
hidden fire heat.

"No. Just us three and those folks."

"Okay. Are you ready to go into the back?" Chet asked, reaching for her other hand.

Fear suddenly gripped the young woman. Whatever calm she had gained being with Johnny
and Chet suddenly evaporated. Alex shook her head, tearing up as she gripped their gloves
in her icy cold fingers.

"You'll do fine. We won't go anywhere dangerous." Johnny assured her.
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From: patti keiper <>
Subject: Bailed Butts
Date: Sun 6/14/15 10:06 PM

Mike Stoker made it a point to not step into the street where hundreds of panicking
drivers continued to flee the downtown area. He kept himself between the curb
and where Marco was seated on the bus bench at the corner of the intersection.
He kept whirling in place, checking and double checking all the burning places
on the asphalt surrounding them for signs that the ground underneath was
beginning to sag and collapse. So far, the concrete was holding.

His head literally shot up when he heard a familiar siren begin to grow from the west.
It was Vince, weaving his way, Code 3, against the traffic flow of the mass evacuation,
heading for their position.

Mike switched to the squad's private police band. "Officer Howard. Sight for sore eyes.
Is there still an escape route working? Marco's injured." he stated through the radio.

Howard nodded his head as he angled the car towards the uptraffic flow and
left his lights on and flashing to deflect any drivers away from the two firefighters.
"We're fine that way!" he hollered, leaping out of the police car to open up the rear
door so he could take on his riders. "How's he doing?" he said, moving his own radio
so that it dangled from a strap on his wrist, freeing his hands up.

"Getting a bit worse." Mike replied as Vince helped him support Lopez onto his
feet. They carefully guided him into the rider cab of the squad with both of his arms
over their shoulders.  

"I'll head straight to Triage. I grabbed a med bag and oxygen before I came.
They're in the back seat with you." he said, hurrying back to the driver's side. Howard
got in, turned his siren back on, and took off, doing a U turn hastily to reorient with the
evacuation route so he could weave in and out, and around traffic, at will, at a faster

Lopez's head began to lull so Mike tipped his head back over the edge
of the seat below the rear window to keep his ability to breathe easier.

"This is bad, Mike."  Marco gasped, trying to focus his eyes.

"Not you." Stoker corrected. "Maybe out there perhaps. Now shut up and just
breathe."  he said, fitting on an oxygen mask over Marco's bruised face. "I'm going to
look for other issues. Yelp if I find one." he said, and began to test the extent of Marco's
injuries by probing touch.

Vince got on his squad radio and keyed up the mic. "Squad 9 to IC-2." he radioed.

##IC-2 to Squad 9, go ahead.##  came a transmission from Hank.
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"I've got two of your men, headed to your location. We need immediate
medical assistance!" Vince shouted over the noise of the sirens.

Captain Stanley's reply was preceded by a quick relieved explosive sigh.
##10-4, Vince. Bring 'em home. DeSoto and a doctors-and-nurse team from
the La Brea tar pit museum are aware and waiting. What's your E.T.A.?##

"Two minutes."  Vince said.

Mike Stoker's fingers sank into a soft spot just below Marco's ribs along
the right side of his back.  Lopez jerked away from his hands in pain
and immediately started to heave with nausea at the movement.

The engineer pulled off his oxygen mask. "Sorry. Get your head down if
you're gonna puke. I had to find out where you got struck." he said, guiding Marco's
head so it was between the man's knees and supported it there, fully expecting
some projectile vomiting.  But Marco waved his hand in a weak denial.

"It's over.. it's over.." Lopez gasped. "Gimme that back." he said
reaching for the O2.  "It's gotta be a kidney, Mike. I remember this pain.
From high school football practice.." he grunted, sitting back up stiffly,
frightened..."I've felt it once before, after a nasty tackle."

"Are you bleeding from there?" Stoker asked, cutting away Marco's T-shirt
from his throat and stomach.

"I don't feel like I have to piss at all." Lopez told him. "I'll take that as a...
...good sign." he said tightly.

Mike nodded, reaching up to take a carotid pulse count. "Last thing you
want is a ruptured kidney. Any red pee will earn you a date with a surgery
table faster than one of Chet's water cans going off." he tried to joke.

Marco didn't smile as he puffed in small breaths of oxygen around his
back pain.  "I hope they're both okay. There's been nothing on the radio."
he said, holding up his own in a shaky hand. "What if they didn't make it
out, Mike?" he said, beginning to get agitated in his shocky state.

"Quit freaking out, Marco." Stoker said, letting go of the firefighter's neck. "Calm down.
You're at 120 for a pulse." He glanced out all of the squad windows. "Looks totally
fine to me. Think about it. This is just a mess with no horizontal bodies lying around
for blocks. The only ones we know about were in our store. And Gage and Kelly
weren't there, amigo. Major point in their favor. That was a single basement explosion
which you mostly blocked with your butt, my friend. You probably saved their *sses
with yours."

Marco tried to laugh, finally. And winced. He hung onto the engineer's hands
to help keep himself still as tears of stress leaked down his face. "Okay.. okay.
Estoy convencido." he whispered tightly. "Ow.. p-pain's going up. About an eight now."
he shivered.

"I'll let them know." Mike said, getting worried at the cool temperature of Marco's
skin despite the heat.  He turned to the plastic partition separating Vince from them
and slapped it. "Step it up, Vince. He's got intensifying problems."

"Doing it." said the police officer.

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From:  patti keiper (
Sent: Sun 8/23/15 1:37 PM
Subject:  Boiling Point

Dr. Brackett returned to Dixie McCall inside the base station.  "How bad is it?" he asked,
glancing at the run sheet tally Dixie had set out in front of her under a poised pencil.

"Not too many calls yet with surgical candidate type injuries. Most were victims
I could handle without needing a doctor."  Dixie answered, changing out the master recording
reel they all turned on when accepting paramedic transmissions. With her other hand,
she hung up the red phone receiver she had been holding on a shoulder, back onto its cradle
on the wall. "The fire department dispatcher said there's a Code I to process through their
triage area in a minute or two. Hang around?" asked the head nurse.

Kel eyed up the waiting room through their enclosed alcove windows and didn't see anything
urgent as walk-ins from the downtown area explosion. Nor were there any ambulances past
routine sitting at the E.R. entrance. "Sure. Looks like all of the burn cases are going to Cedars
Sinai.  Joe'll be happy about that. What's the firefighter's issue?"

"Blast injury. Secondary impact against a wall from what they've been told. This one's the
most serious so far."

"Ooo." Kel winced in sympathy. "Is he conscious?"

"Yes." she answered. "Roy's Triage Head according to this." she said tapping her notes.
"And our assisting doctors Welby and Kiley, along with Consuelo, their nurse from the family
practice, are the attending Medical onsite."

"Don't tell me, they haven't been issued fire department radios."

"All true. Not even a spare paramedic biophone. You're going to have to like being
kept in the dark tonight. Sorry, Kel."  Dixie sighed bruskly.

Brackett's ire grew more crusty.
"Where's Brice?  He told me a few hours ago that Station 51 re-deployed with
his Station 61 for an earlier ground gas sweep. Fat lot of good that did. He'd be a
good one to handle that fireman during his transport here."  Brackett said, reading
her call station log.

McCall shrugged, not even looking up at the paramedic rescue run status board
on the wall next to them. "Kel, both firefighter crews are probably finding themselves caught
up in this whole mess. They were out in the area." she said of the underground fire
disaster. "I haven't heard a peep from Craig all day. You've got me beat there. When
did you last see him?" she asked, worried.

"Around nine this morning." he looked at his watch. "Ten hours ago? He and his partner
brought in a broken toe case." Kel frowned.

"Fun." Dixie remarked flatly, raising her eyebrows. "Too bad the rest of the night won't be half
as boring at that."

"You're telling me." Dr. Brackett groused, moving a stool over so he could park next to her
to review the new disaster related cases on the patient charts Dixie was preparing. "Give
me what you've got on the firefighter. I'll brain storm. Then see if you can find Brice to take
this victim's run." he snapped.
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"Sticking like a tick to L.A. County Fire." she snorted efficiently, picking up the red
phone again to dial out.  "I think we've enough clout to nab a Battalion's ear long enough
to arrange that."

"We'd better have." Kel growled.  "Tell the chief I require direct expert combat injury experience
for his downed man. That ought to move a few mountains."

Dixie grinned sharply in appreciation of his plan. "Using the words 'blown up' amply."

"Works for me." Dr. Brackett replied.


Roy glanced up at the sight of Vince's patrol car arriving with its reds on.  On instinct,
he automatically stepped in the direction of Squad 51.

"Park it." Cap warned quietly. "You're in charge. You're going to have to let someone else handle

"I was just going to set up for them." DeSoto ansed, watching Drs. Kiley and Welby rush over
to intercept and open the rear passenger door. He saw Consuelo Lopez quickly flag over two helpers
carrying a spineboard from Staging.

"We delegate. We don't do, in these roles." Hank said apologetically. "Your job's the bigger picture.
Marco's here. You're going to have to be happy with just that." Stanley said firmly. "No. Turn your back.
If you can't see what's going on with him, you won't find yourself getting distracted.  You're already
messed up because the others are still partially in hot water."

"Flames more like." DeSoto mumbled, finally tearing his eyes away from the activity surrounding their
friend to meet Cap's tightly controlled ones.

"Hush. You heard Battalion. Gage and Chet have checked in. They're still actively on duty.
And Stoker will be over here telling us any nitty gritty paramedic thing you wanna know before you
can spit twice."

DeSoto sighed in frustration. "But--"

"Be. My. Head."  Cap quietly warned. "I find myself in those shoes you're currently feeling cramped in,
all of the time. Marco's breathing, Roy. I can see that from here. You'll find out soon that that's enough
of a fact to last you until the end of this call. Now get back to Check-In. Looks like there are three
green tags and a yellow waiting to see you."
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"Okay. If you say so, Cap. Can I ask who's got him?"  DeSoto asked unhappily, angry.

"Brice is coming."

"That's good enough for me." he said finally, returning back to his place by the side
of the fire truck strewn boulevard.


The YMCA was getting hotter. But Chet Kelly knew that it wasn't the building that was burning.
The heat was coming from the ground beneath their feet. "Bit of a hot foot, eh, Alex?"
he joked as Gage, he and the college aged girl receptionist made their way down
the dark hallway.

Johnny stepped on Kelly's shoe. Hard. "Nothing like a foundation slab three feet
thick to stand on. Solid as a first class WW II bunker. We're perfectly safe."
he grinned widely. It was entirely fake, engineered to damage control the hellbent
firefighter's humor that Chet had let loose to blow off some mental steam. ::That certainly
wasn't any emotional steam.:: Gage fumed inside of his head. ::We're not in enough
danger yet for him to do any of that.::

The wide eyed stunned look on Alex's face that had been beginning to form went back
the way it had come.  She giggled nervously. "Too bad we can't all just
jump into the pool. I'm sure the water's still nice and cool."

Johnny and Chet's heads snapped around suddenly, and they looked at each other with
Oh-Sh*t shock.  Gage suddenly grabbed the girl's hand and began hurrying them along,
following the signs leading the way to the inside swimming pool. "Come on, we gotta hurry.
Move!" he urged.

"W-What?" the girl stuttered, trying to master her roller-coastering sense of alarm.

"We forgot. You guys have a chlorine pool here." Johnny explained. "If any part of the gas
that exploded earlier's methane, there's a chance that sunlight can set it off in a chain reaction
that'll blow up again."

Alex let out a frightened sob. "Oh no. Ned and the kids! I'm sure he's got them in the water.
It's in our protocol to get everybody wet if there's no escape possible in a fire."

Chet got to the door they needed and tried to shoulder his way through it. It didn't work.

"Try the key?" Gage suggested, looking at Alex.

"I don't have it. Ned's got it."

Both firefighters renewed their efforts to break through.

"Something's blocking the way in." Kelly hissed, working hard.

"It's gotta be the door jam. The explosion must have warped it. Let's try the shovel as a pry bar."
Gage suggested. "Chet.. They've got side glass in there..." he said urgently. "I can see the sunset."

"Is that enough?" Chet grunted, as he and Johnny strained to force the hinges open.

"We've got ample heat." Gage hissed back, his face turning even redder with effort.
"It's gonna be Chloromethane and Hydrogen Chloride. Won't be fun breathing in there if it's
already started... *gasp* chain reacting. Brown gas first, right over the water's surface. Then--"  
They both worked desperately harder until both their muscles and voices were screaming.

The aluminum framed pool entrance door gave way with a bang against the wooden wall panelling
and the two of them staggered inside, dropping the shovel with a loud clang onto the pool's tile

They saw that Ned and the five children were indeed in the shallow end all huddled together
in a knot of arm hugs. They were just beginning to cough. But they were in the shade and
out of the worst of the almost hidden chemical reaction.

"Ned! Get out of the pool! Get them all out now!"  Johnny warned the male counselor.

"We'll help you!" Alex said, gesturing for the kids to come to the ladder so she could
help them up.

Chet Kelly busied himself for ten seconds, hurtling a sturdy steel garbage can against
an exterior glass wall that was facing away from any westerly direction, away from the sun.

The glass shattered and immediately, outside air flooded in to dilute the forming gasses
that no one could smell, but could only see as the slightest coffee colored haze on top of
the water that was slowly writhing like a boiling froth.
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"Hurry! Go this way!" Kelly warned Ned.  Snatching up the last child
from the water, Chet ran with the others through the hole he had made through the
deck window.  Looking back as they ran for the playground and the others they wanted
to find, he saw the dangerous muddy gas dissipate as silently as it had formed just
at the same moment the sun slipped below the horizon over the mountains.

"We're out far enough.." Gage panted, checking each frightened crying kid out in turn
for any wheezes or asthma signs. He found none.

"It's over. The stuff stopped." Chet agreed.

"What was that all about?" Ned startled, grabbing up a few abandoned towels on the
patio sun chairs for the children to use in the growing night chill. "I thought we'd be
safe in the water. The sidewalk out here's burning."

Chet stooped over, catching his breath as he flagged over the last YMCA staffer with
the two sets of parents and toddlers from where they had taken refuge up a climbing
apparatus of domed monkey bars to get off the ground. "Two bad gases." he said,
holding up two fingers. "Were mixing... You had no idea..." he puffed.

"We were this close to having another explosion.." Gage added, breathing hard with
relief as he held up pinching fingers.

"J*sus!" paled Steve as he took the slate Alex handed him to double check their
attendance roster. "Can we get out of here?"

"We're gonna have to wait for full darkness. Believe it or not, by the Y's still the
safest place to be with its thicker floor base concrete.  Nightfall will let us see
the fire glow where the gas is coming through these ground cracks. Maybe then
we'll see a safe enough way out to our fire trucks."

Chet considered their options. "Up on the roof's gonna be too cold for the kids.
The wind's picking up."

"Too smoky for a chopper pick up. No place to land." Gage added. "Let's call
for Search and Rescue to bug us out. They've had more time to check out
all of the blocks that are still burning."

"Where's the nearest fire door?" Chet asked, turning to Ned, Steve and Alex.

"Behind that tree." Steve answered. "Why?"

"We're breaking our way back inside to get to the same front lobby phone we used
before to summon a ride out of here." Kelly replied.

"I'll smash open a few vending machines. We could all use a little food and a lot
of soda." suggested Alex.

"Atta girl. Now that's what I call getting into survival mode." Gage grinned
at her professionally.  

At Steve's dismay, Ned just shrugged. "Insurance'll pay for it."
Then he followed Gage and Kelly, herding their charges in the right direction for
the fire door.  

Alex smiled back at Johnny as they walked. "You guys can skip the force tooling
this time. I've got a key for this one."

From:  patti keiper  
Sent: Sun 8/23/15 11:34 PM
Subject: Unexpected..

A victim awoke in the heart of all the chaos, only a few hundred yards
away from the basement that had self destructed in the ground gas explosion
three hours earlier. The woman blinked grit and blood out of her eyes as she
tried to suck in more than just a partial breath once again.

A fallen fire extinguisher was the only thing keeping a heavy steel rafter beam
from crushing her to death the rest of the way.  

All she could think about was the fact that her pinky and ring fingers on both
of her hands were still tingling. ::That's cervical damage. Or at least.. some
really bad pressure on a neck nerve. :: she thought analytically to herself.
::That's definitely what Roy would say to me.... if he was here.::

It had taken Roy DeSoto's wife almost three hours after Marco and Stoker had
fled Kmart, to wake up fully and figure out exactly what had happened to her.

Joanne had long ago given up shouting over the sound of the angry sidewalk flames
as they hungrily consumed the upwelling ground gas coming out of the earth.

She had been in one of the fitting rooms, zipping up the back of a really fine sun dress.
That's what probably saved her life. She had had two walls between her and the main
department store space's expansive window glass. They had offered her some protection
from most of the raw force of the explosion and all of the flying shards' debris.
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Joanne had learned that there was absolutely no chance of being heard from where she
was trapped. Her best yell didn't even penetrate the obstacles and echo anywhere else
that was bigger.  She realized that she would have to wait until rescuers searched out
the tiny room she was inside of within the shattered footprint of the store.

A crumbling piece of the roof began to rain down more choking dust into Joanne
DeSoto's face at a wind gust through a new hole. She could see the guttering glow of
the night sky as it warred with some faint fire light. Stars and sparks both, began
flickering in the tangling smoke above her.

"Oh, why did I have to go shopping today of all days? I should have stayed home
with the kids after school." she gasped as the pain in her neck from the weight
of the fallen beam grew.  Futilely she tried to push it off with numb palms that were
slippery with sweat from the heat. But Roy's wife had only succeeded in shifting it
to a more painful pinching as it lay on top of her heavily bruised throat. The sudden
increased pressure made her heartbeat slow down to a crawl. "Uggghh. Not again."
she gurgled, feeling another black out coming on. "Can't.. br--"

She kicked out, fighting back to consciousness and one of her gym shoes connected
with something soft and yielding. Joanne suddenly stilled, her horror blossoming.
Her struggling mind figured out exactly what the obstacle was. "Oh, I'm so sorry.."
she murmured. "I didn't know you were.. there..." she whispered.

As she had rested that first wakeful hour, she had identified three people who were
lying dead next to her in her particular jumbled mass of debris. Her foot had just
found a fourth person, nearly unrecognizable except for the soft give of their body.

The fresh surge of blood tang and sour stool in the air confirmed another disturbed
corpse and increased her nausea.  Joanne struggled to breathe. Without ever having
experienced it before in her life, she knew that it was the stench of death. Several
long minutes later, Joanne fought down some stupidly irrational rising panic, and
worked once again to stabilize the beam that was holding her prisoner.

::Why don't I hear anybody from the fire department?:: she thought weakily as she
began to twist a few wire hangers together to make a hook with some reach.
::Is the collapse zone really that big around me? Those sirens are so far away..::
She began to pant, her suffocation deepening. ::Did I tell Craig Brice where
I was going on the payphone earlier? I-I can't r-remember..::

Joanne DeSoto began to cry softly in the darkness as she fumbled and dropped
her careful crafting. Her fingers had gone completely numb.  

She felt her whole body begin to rag doll and the world faded away in a flood
of tears and retinal blood.


Marco Lopez began to pant, despite wearing oxygen.

"No, don't let go." said Dr. Steven Kiley as he bent over the technicians
removing the firefighter's clothes to conduct a full hands on trauma assessment.
"Keep your gut tight for just a little bit longer. We're rigging up a MAST suit to
help you out."

Mike Stoker tipped back Marco's head a little farther for more breathing room.

"Did he give up respiring on you at any time?" Steven asked 51's engineer.
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"Not at all. Maybe got the wind knocked out of him for a minute or two."
Mike replied. "He got really stiff and sore though. Pretty fast."

Dr. Marcus Welby nodded at Nurse Consuelo who began taking a quick blood
pressure. "What hurts, son?" he asked Marco with a comforting smile that warmed
Lopez down to his very bones.

"Lower.. right..  back." the fireman gasped, trying not to move a muscle when
he felt himself get rolled onto his side next to the trousers that had been set
spread out on top of the spinal board he was on.

"Let me see.." said Marcus, probing the area with expert fingers. He found an area of
active guarding that was spreading to Marcos' abdomen over a flower of fresh red and
black bruising. "Ah, kidney punched perhaps."

Mike Stoker spoke up. "I checked him out pretty closely on the way here.
There's nothing else going on except this."

Kiley took the engineer's assessment with a grain of salt and spoke up. "All right.
We're through. Position him on his back again and start pumping up the leg
chambers first. One by one. Consuelo?"

"Initial's 78 over 44." she reported. "Not too bad." she shared with a shrug for their
listening patient. "I think he's snapping out of getting stunned doctors. His color's good."

"Wrap him up well in some blankets after securing the board's straps. We'll skip
the cervical collar. I don't think it's necessary. I agree with Marco's friend. I'm not finding
anything else further that's off." Steven told Marcus as he finished examining the
fireman's soot dusted head and neck.

Welby nodded with satisfaction. "Up the O2 to full liter flow. Let's start a precautionary I.V.
of Normal Saline, wide open, to get ahead of all this sweating." he ordered. Then his smile
returned into Marco's view.  "We can use the fluid line to administer a pain med, Marco.
Do you want anything right now?"

Marco tried to answer but just a grunt came out.

"That's sounds a yes to me." Kiley said, checking out Lopez's eyes with a pen light. "They're
dilated. I'll give him five milligrams Meperidine, pushed."

"First leg's done." said a technician.

"Wait on the second until we get another reading." Kiley told the others as he handed Lopez's
intravenous bag to Mike Stoker to hold.

Consuelo took a BP on Marco's opposite arm. "Finally climbing, doctors. 88 over 60."

"Take another one when both the suit's legs and half the abdominal chamber are inflated."
estimated Marcus. "I think that far will do the trick."

Marco felt some blissfully warm blood begin to rise into his face. The MAST suit's body
squeezing pressure felt good and his pain was easing off greatly even before his narcotic
was injected. "Do you think anything's ruptured..inside?"  he asked Dr. Welby, patting
the rubber of the suit he was in for emphasis with one of his shivering hands.

"Do you feel like you have to go to the bathroom at all?"

Marco shook his head. "I'm just thirsty."

"Then I'd say a definite no on a rupture." he replied. "We felt only normal outlines of all
your abdominal organs on palpation. I'm hearing peristalsis now through my stethoscope.
So your intestines and colon are largely uneffected. I'd say you're suffering from a bruised
area of your renal plexus. We'll know more once we get you on a heart monitor.
A blow kidney wise will effect your aorta's stroke volume temporarily. It's mostly
why you're feeling crappy right now. Your current hypotension supports this finding.
It's why we've put you into the anti-shock trousers. For comfort's sake, not because
you're bleeding out anywhere."

Nurse Consuelo chuckled at a third BP finding when the suit reached the psi levels the doctors
wanted. "120 over 72."

Marcus's eyes twinkled and he leaned close to Marco's ear. "How's your breathing now?"

"Better. Much. Thanks." he murmured under the effect of the medication.

Dr. Kiley rose to his feet and waved over a Mayfair crew with a gurney. "He's ready to
ship out.  Where's his paramedic?" he asked them.

"Right here." said Craig Brice as he ran up to them from the street, peeling off his turnout
coat and helmet.  "I just got the request. Hello, Mr. Lopez, how are you doing?"

Marco was drifting in a doze inside of his cocoon of blankets.  He didn't answer him.
Brice frowned and looked up at the others.

Dr. Welby ducked his head in explanation. "Ah, that's the meperidine we gave him. His aorta's
spasming due to a lucky plexus hit. Getting a strip's highly recommended, sir." Marcus suggested.

"I'll get one right away." Brice said, all eyes and hands on his patient, gathering information
tactilely and through his own observations. "Dr. Brackett and Ms. McCall will want his telemetry
sent in as soon as possible."

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"Here are our notes." Nurse Consuelo said, passing off her vital signs sheet carbon with the
doctors' treatment steps, medication dosages and time stamps. "We'll save the original for
his coworker paramedics to eyeball. They're probably chafing at the bit about it as we
speak." she said, tearing off the color coding on Marco's triage tag to yellow.

"That they are, ma'am. The exact man you want to see for delivering that to is Roy DeSoto.
He's by Engine and Squad 51 right over there." Craig replied.

"I'll take it." volunteered Stoker. "I'm freed up until I see my captain for new orders."
"Brice. Any updates.."

"..will be passed along to Captain Stanley,  I.C.2,  expeditiously." Craig promised.

"I'll hold you to that. See you back at the station."


The sound of a very loud EKG monitor's irregular bleeping startled Marco
out of his drugged stupor. "Ahhh!...Is that me?"

"Yes, Mr. Lopez. It's nothing to worry about. You're reading NSR with vagal
artifacts." replied Brice when Marco decided to open his eyes and join
the living.  

"What does that mean, Brice? I don't speak paramedic." he sighed wearily.

"It means your heart thinks it got the wind knocked out of it like your lungs
did earlier when you hit the wall." Craig replied frankly. "Excuse me. I've got
Rampart on the line."

##Answer me, Brice!## came Kel's order through the biocom. ##What's the
hold up?##

"Our patient asked a question about his cardiac findings, Rampart.
I answered him."

There was a short silence on the other end of the biophone. ##Well, that's
an improvement. What's your E.T.A.?##

"Three minutes exactly."

##Take another set of vitals and report back to Nurse McCall with those in
two minutes. I'm going to arrange for a second opinion on all of your reported

Marco chuckled muzzily. "I trust those other doctors. Why doesn't Dr. Brackett
trust those other doctors?"

Brice didn't even bat an eye as he covered the phone receiver. "It's because
they don't work together on a regular basis. It's a character flaw."  Then he got
back on the frequency. "10-4, Rampart. Stand by for another strip on Lead II."

##Standing by.##

Marco almost laughed out loud. But then he remembered his much abused renal
plexus and didn't tempt fate.


Johnny and Chet jumped down off of Urban Search and Rescue's Engine 103
in the Triage area.  "Thanks for bailing our butts out, guys. We'll take charge
of these YMCA folks and get them processed."

The lieutenant who had driven the USAR's Quint, leading the way for the
evacuation bus loaded with their victims, waved a hand and left to go back
to Staging for a reassignment.

Chet Kelly helped Alex the receptionist down the steps of the bus. "You're
first, miss. There are doctors right over there who can take a look at
your head cut." he said, tying on a green torn triage tag to her shirt from
a stack of tags a fireman handed out to him in passing.

"What about the others, the parents and kids?" she asked, still pumped up.

"They're no longer your responsibility. They're ours. See?" Johnny Gage
replied, waving over Nurse Consuelo who suddenly appeared with a handy
wheel chair for Alex. "Everybody gets checked out. My paramedic partner's
Head Of Triage, and he's not going to take no for answer. So sit and relax."
he invited.  "We insist." he said when she didn't immediately do so.

Consuelo raised her eyebrow at Gage about Alex. "She's minor." he shared.
"Maybe some gas effects on these kids and one of those male YMCA staffers.
Hydrogen Chloride and ground methane." he volunteered.
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"What about you two?" she asked.

"We're okay. Look, we've got to go touch base with our captain. And I've
got to see Roy about a friend of ours who probably came in here to see

"You mean Fireman Lopez? Good last name. It's the same as mine."

"Uh, yes ma'am. But that's not exactly what I--"  Johnny stammered.

"He's already shipped out." she replied, grinning happily.

"Already?  What was his condition?" Gage gaped, fearing that the worst came
for Marco such as his becoming a red tag priority transport.

"Oh, we found him moderately shocky, but after treatment, he left as very stable."
the nurse replied.

"That's .. really good to know." Chet Kelly piped up, visibly relieved.

"Come on, Chet. We're done. No offense ma'am,..Alex.." Johnny
said, being diplomatic.

"...but we've got to run." Kelly finished, "Duty calls, love." he grinned at the
receptionist. "I hope we never meet again." he said, leaning into Alex's ear

She smiled at Chet, broadly.

Kelly dragged Johnny off with him to report in to Captain Stanley and Accountibility
before Gage could counter his excellent one liner invitation with one of his own.

From:  patti keiper (
Sent: Sun 9/06/15 12:12 PM
Subject:  Shared Wings

Full darkness had descended, but the night was still hot and stifling.

Mike Stoker spied where Roy DeSoto and Hank Stanley were standing at the edge of the
triage area along the avenue. A row of ambulances were waiting to take in victims, with
their lights flashing to ward off any civilian traffic still distracted by the disaster, near
their loading zone.  Hancock Park's fire flare was dying down, glowing eerily blue in
what street lights still had power around the La Brea neighborhood.  

The usual land/sea breeze had situated itself in for the night into a steady easterly direction.
The engineer saw that air bottles were no longer needed around Station 51's streetside
staging area because of it. The fog meant guaranteed fresh air.

The sight of his stationmates was a relief even greater than knowing that he and Marco had
made it to safe ground.  "Cap!" Stoker shouted.

Hank looked up from the row of handy talkies he had inherited with his position as
second Incident Commander that were lined up on the Engine's running board.
"Hey, pal. How bad is it?" he asked eagerly, for news of the downtown earth fire.

Another voice cut in eagerly from around the back of Engine 51.    
"Never mind that, how's Marco?" Gage demanded, with Chet following close at his heels.

"He's--" Mike began.

Gage interrupted him, spotting the care notes in Stoker's hand. He snatched them up.
"Well, why didn't you say so?" he said, reading Dr. Kiley and Welby's notes quickly.
"Ah,... a yellow tag. He's already with Brice. Chet, I think we can relax now."
Johnny sighed, ignoring his captain and Stoker's bemused expressions.

A third voice started up. It was Roy's. "Really?... He's..he's going to be fine?" DeSoto
stuttered, taking the sheets from his partner's grip in ginger disbelief. He finally
summoned enough bravery to start eyeballing what the doctors had written down.

"Says right there." Gage grinned.

"Let me see!" said Chet, grabbing the notes out of Roy's hands impatiently.

"Kelly, you can't read those." said Johnny, admonishing. "They're in doctor speak.
Give them back."

"I'll take those." interjected Hank neatly, rescuing both his authority and Marco's triage
papers. "Used to forms. I can read anything."  

"But.." Chet protested.

"I'll translate for you, Chet. Roy, read over my shoulder." Cap suggested.
"Fastest way to get your answers, around this guy." he said, pointing at Kelly.

Chet made a face at his captain.   Hanging his head, Kelly resigned himself to fetching
out five water bottles for everybody from a cooler Cap had rerouted from Rest and

Mike Stoker accepted his and cracked it opened. "Thanks, Chet."

Cap finally opened his mouth. "Awake. Breathing. Pain controlled. Done. Now, Mike.
Give me that report on that fire." he said with exasperation, smacking the sheets
against Roy's chest so he'd take them out of his hands forever.

DeSoto just smiled, agreeing with the outcome Cap summarized without speaking.
He fielded Chet's dissatisfaction with getting just four words on Marco's condition
deftly. "Ah, Chet. Come here.. we can go over these point for point. Drink your water.
Then I gotta get back to work."

Mike Stoker, Gage and Cap were already in deep discussion behind them.
"It's a huge area, involving even pavement structures. Access is going to be an issue."
the engineer supplied.
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   The Long Hot Summer
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