"The Imperfect Storm"

By Ross7

Chapter One

LA County Firefighter, John Gage, listened as the dispatcher sent another squad out on another response. The paramedic paused, right in mid-polish, and turned to his partner. "Did you hear that? That's the second run 45s been on—in less than an hour! Every squad is busy—but us!"

Roy DeSoto gave their squad's windshield another squirt of Windex and smiled at his friend's strange vexation.

Johnny was the original adrenaline junky. Gage's mind and body were both geared for action.

So DeSoto wasn't surprised that his partner despised inactivity. "Relax!" he advised his bored buddy. "And just enjoy the break. I'm positive things'll pick up. This is just what THEY call 'The lull before the storm'. Before yah know it, we'll have more excitement than we can handle."

His antsy associate shot him an appreciative glance…and then went back to his polishing.

Five minutes later, DeSoto lowered his Windex bottle and stepped back to admire the Squad's glistening glass surfaces. He smiled approvingly and then turned to his partner—who was still polishing the same side panel. "Johnny?"

Gage ignored him. He was too busy listening to the monitor chatter.


John jerked, startled. "Huh?…Wha-at?"

Roy motioned to the highly polished panel. "You should probably leave a little paint for the other shifts…" he teased.

Again, Gage ignored him. "I just realized…that I am actually standing here…waiting for something bad to happen to somebody…so I can go out and rescue them. That's sort a'…demented. Isn't it?"

DeSoto smiled inwardly. He never ceased to marvel at some of the things his partner's bored brain could come up with. "Yeah…we-ell…It's all in the way you look at it. I figure something bad is bound to happen to a few people everyday. We're just waiting to go out and help them, when it does."

His companion's countenance brightened—considerably. "Yeah…Yeah. You're right!" he acknowledged. Then he flipped the white cloth in his hand over and resumed his polishing.

Fifteen minutes—and another side panel—later, their Station's tones finally sounded.

"Squad 51…" the dispatcher began.

The dark-haired paramedic appeared positively ecstatic. He tossed his polishing cloth onto the call station and then climbed into their very shiny vehicle, to slip his helmet on.

"…Woman complaining of leg cramps…"

"Leg cramps?" John remarked, as his partner slid into the seat beside him. "Gee...Sounds exciting!" he added. He did his level best to appear sincere, but a small smirk betrayed him.

Roy couldn't help but smile. He took the call slip his Captain handed him and passed it on to his impossible to please partner.

Gage glanced down at the address. "Hang a right," he advised.

DeSoto did, and the polished to perfection fire truck headed off down the street—with its lights flashing and its siren blaring.

Within a matter of minutes, the racing squad reached the call site: 3121 East Crescent.

DeSoto pulled into the circular driveway and parked in front of the rambling, ranch-style home. He cut the siren and exited the truck.

Gage piled out on the opposite side and began pulling compartments open. He grabbed their Base Kit and the drug box and then joined his partner on the home's front porch.

Roy rang the doorbell again and then called out, "Fire Department!"

The pair heard some movement from inside the house, closely followed by a feeble invitation to 'Come i-in!'

DeSoto opened the door and they stepped inside.

A middle-aged man was kneeling in the center of the living room, swaying back and forth.

The rescuers hurried up to him.

Roy took the man's arm and tried to steady him. "Are you okay?"

The guy nodded and gave the pair a silly grin. "I'm fi-ine! A man can outdrinkawoman…anydayoftheweek!"

The firemen got a whiff of the guy's breath and backed off some.

Gage exchanged glances with his partner and then gradually lowered his heavy cases to the carpeted floor. "We got a call that there is a woman with leg cramps at this address. Do you know anything about that?"

The man started struggling to his feet. "Yup!…Maggie…my wife…the woman's l-l-libber!"

The firemen assisted the guy to his feet.

But he was way too drunk to stay standing. "Can't handle her l-l-liquor," the drunk continued, as he slowly slid back onto his knees. "Passedrightout! An'…an' no-ow, she's com-complaining of stomachpains…oh…yeah," he turned to his dark-haired visitor, "an' l-l-leg cramps."

Gage managed an impatient gasp. "Sir? Sir! Where is your wife?"

The guy ignored him. "Always arguing over the equality of the sexes! 'Womenareequaltomen!' she says. Beats me at ev-er-y-thing!" he turned to the blond-haired fireman and tugged at his trousers. "But I won this one!"

The paramedics were rapidly running out of patience.

Gage stooped down to the guy's level, grabbed him by the shoulders, and forced him to make eye contact. "Where is your wife no-ow?"

"Out back. When she came to andsawthatIhadwonthedrinking con-contest, she got allbentouttashape…and challenged me to a couple a' l-l-laps across the poo-poo-ool—" the homeowner stopped speaking, as he suddenly realized he was now talking to himself.

His visitors had disappeared out the patio doors...and into the backyard.

Roy ran along the edge of the pool. He spotted a body resting on the bottom of the deep end and dove in.

John dropped his cases. "I'll get the O2 and a backboard!" he shouted and went racing back into—and through—the house.

Roy reached the bottom of the pool. He latched onto the wife's bobbing body by the back of her blouse's collar and started swimming towards the surface.

As soon as his face cleared the water, he positioned their drowning victim, so that he could begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

When the dark-haired fireman flew past him—for a third time, the guy kneeling in the living room opened his mouth, to inquire as to what was going on. But, before he could even pose his question, the paramedic had already vanished back into the backyard. The guy's curiosity got the better of him and he started heading towards the patio doors—on all fours.

"Full respiratory arrest!" Roy informed his returning partner, between breaths. "Pulse is barely palpable!"

John jumped in—feet first. He pulled the backboard into the pool with him and then swam over to where his partner was administering AR.

Gage got the still-non-breathing woman's body strapped in place. Then he began towing the backboard over to the edge of the pool.

DeSoto swam alongside and continued to give their victim mouth-to-mouth—all the while.

The victim's crawling husband reached the edge of the pool and halted. The guy saw the blond-haired fireman pressing his lips up against his wife's—and flew into a rage. "Hey! What the hell doyouthinkyou'redoing? That's my wife you're...k-kissing!"

"You're wife isn't breathing!" the dark-haired paramedic patiently informed him. "My partner has to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or she'll die!"

The guy completely ignored the explanation and nose-dived into the water.

John reluctantly released his hold on the backboard. He swam over and latched onto one of their newest drowning victim's thrashing limbs and began towing him back over to the edge of the pool. "Listen to me! Your wife isn't breathing! She nee-eeds our help! So, you're just gonna hafta settle down!" He shoved the drunk and disorderly guy's upper body back onto the deck and then pushed him the rest of the way up out of the pool. "Now, plea-ease, just stay put! And let us do our jo—!" The paramedic's plea was interrupted, as the plastered homeowner suddenly leapt back into the pool—landing right on top of him! Gage didn't get a chance to take a breath before going under. He came to the surface coughing up chlorinated water.

To make matters worse, the drunk guy was—once more—in the process of drowning.

Once again, John grappled with one of the infuriating fellow's flailing arms, and, once again, he got the guy out of the pool and back up onto the deck.

"This time—" Gage gasped, "You'd better stay put! Now, I mean it! I don't have the time—or the energy—to keep fishin' you outta here! You hear me?"

The soggy drunk just sat there on the deck, staring dazedly back at him.

The plastered homeowner made no attempt to reenter the pool.

So the paramedic turned his back on him.

The guy on the deck's dazed look vanished, as he caught sight of his rescuer's partner. That blond-haired fireman was now at the edge of the pool—and still messin' with his wife! The drunken man tried to scramble to his unsteady feet, but lost his balance…and went toppling back into the pool, instead.

"Ou-ouch!" came the drunken guy's cry, as his kneecap came into contact with something other than water.

John was about to swim over and help his partner lift their first drowning victim out of the pool, when something suddenly struck him—hard—on the top of his head. There was a brilliant explosion...of a lot of little *stars*…and then everything went__________.