Emergency Theater Live, Episode 52

MOVIE ONE

52. The Fire Within, Movie One, (Episode 52)

Short summary- Station 51 trains with airport firefighters and run into the unexpected on a deer hunting trip in New York State involving medical park rangers who help them rescue a lost boy with a chopper pilot and a pair of luckless kayakers. An icy disaster involving a jumbo jet and the airport terminal leads to conditions that threaten the lives of Station 51's crew.

****WARNING**** The long summary to come is very story spoiling and will take away plot surprises if you read it now before reading the longer story below it.

Decide now if you want to read this episode's detailed summary before doing so.

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Long Summary-Movie One, The Fire Within

Movie One, The Fire Within

Part One

A traumatized little boy travels to a park ranger station in coastline New York State with his grandmother to escape the memory of his father's death. An RN and Doctor Park Ranger team gets caught in an avalanche on a routine trail safety run. The Station 51 gang travels to the Appalachian Center National Park to participate in an extended season deer hunt before reporting to an airport fire station on the coast for career cross training. Hidden concerns effect the mountain ranger team's friendships throughout. The airport fire station crew suffers a practical joke war with the airport's control tower personnel and decide to get revenge. ARFF crew bond with a morning run along a runway at dawn. A fire chief gets Dr. Brackett's permission to use Roy and Johnny's paramedic skills. A Park Ranger captain paramedic befriends the sad little boy and decides a career shadow day will ease his grief. Station 51's deer hunt begins with a rocky start when Chet reveals his secret strategy for luring bucks. Chet outclasses Johnny archery wise on a deer target shooting contest. Gage gets the last comeback when Kelly chokes when targetting the real thing. The gang cheers up Kelly about his awkward first hunt over venison steaks. A cougar pays a visit to their deer camp and is taken out by a park ranger's mule and a female sheriff paramedic's bullet. Three sheriff paramedics kabbitz good natured banter at the national park's headquarters. The gang suffers the reality of the onset of sudden winter when their campfire needs a sudden snuffing. The sad little boy receives a tour in the park's rescue helicopter by their ranger pilot. Chet, fetching water for the coffee pot, discovers a river hypothermia victim, a kayaker in the shallows, and summons help. The station 51 crew begins treatment of their patient with warming and oxygen after radioing for assistance from the park lodge. They find a clue that their kayaker wasn't alone and begin a search upstream for a second victim.
Bluebird Five, the tour chopper, overflies the gang's kayak rescue. Nurse and doctor park rangers worry over the call. 240 Robert sheriff's paramedics and helicopter pilot respond to the gang's incident. Chet and Roy marvel at a new steaming breathing device and intrabone I.V. which saves their first victim from death by cold. The second kayaker is found with a broken back and skull and is rescued from the water by Gage and Stanley. Johnny suffers deep body chilling. Sierra's paramedic park ranger Ted Cassidy treats Gage. Bluebird Five crashes after being caught in a dust devil. 240 Robert and the gang extricates the second kayaker with difficulty by chopper. Both river victims evacuated, the gang begins a new search and rescue operation for the lost boy and pilot from Bluebird Five. Johnny becomes enamoured of Morgan Wainwright, the 240 Robert unit's pilot. A nurse/park ranger recalls how she met the missing boy before she and the boy's grandmother rush off on horseback in a search operation. Gage has a run in with a cantankerous nurse and his doctor at the ranger lodge's hospital.
The sheriff's female pilot shows romantic interest in Johnny. The boy and tour pilot come to on the forest floor below the crashed chopper. The pilot, gravely wounded, helps the child cope with parent loss while the boy struggles to care for the man's injuries. The searchers come up with a hypothesis of where the tour helicopter ditched and press harder on searching. Johnny reconciles with his lady doctor to amend their rocky start as patient and caregiver. The boy desperately tries to breathing revive his pilot friend when a femoral artery bursts and severe shock sets in. A smart mule locates the boy's lost navy cap and searchers soon find the lost chopper pair and begin emergency care.

Part Two

The park pilot, the crashed Bluebird Five chopper, and the boy are all airlifted to sources of repair and help. The child is reassured of his new pilot friend's eventual recovery by the rangers and park doctor.
At dinner, the Station 51 gang tease Chet's still tender hunting impressions.
The youngest park ranger girl tries a date attempt with her captain. Johnny wins the sheriff pilot's heart and she gives them all a farewell to remember as they start to travel to the coastal airport for their next trip stop at the airport's fire station. The gang is escorted to their training destination by the airport fire chief. Casual banter over the kitchen table bonds the two fire crews instantly. The L.A. gang is given orientation and training to airport firefighting in great detail. Dixie McCall phones them in New York to say howdy. An airport chopper paramedic arrives to the runway fire station with bad news about a distressed business commuter in the air. A passenger on the jet suffers cardiac arrest and collapses. A military jet is scrambled to assess the jet pilot's incommunicado emergency situation. Both Station 51's men and the ARFF crew pair up and respond in trucks with other fire services,
to the runway. All the paramedics team up in ambulances or with first in crews. The jet lands on wheels but catches flame from a blown airlock door. The fire crews move in to rescue pilot and businessmen passengers. One by one, the casualties are moved to an emergency clinic by the airport terminal where the park doctor has rejoined them for triage operations. Roy and Johnny treat the cardiac arrested man along with their airport firefighter paramedic coworkers. All victims are evacuated to the airport clinic hastily being set up for them. In the airport tower, an air controller sees an ominous sight of the incoming lights of an international Concorde flight that declares a sudden ice bound air emergency. The situation goes pear shaped when the aircraft crashes, taking out a radio antennae and killing all on board. The flat lined heart victim is left abandoned on the side of the runway in the face of the new emergency. Damaged are the air control tower, the main airport terminal and three grounded passenger airliners still in docking place. A new massive large scale incident is declared and the airport fire chief hastily reassigns them all to specific rescue tasks. An airport fire engineer is assigned the radio room at the fire station with another firefighter. The 51 gang is split up between search and rescue of the control tower and main terminal, after organizing themselves with the triage doctor from the Appalchia park center. Captain Stanley is given command of a second rescue operation along with Mike Stoker. The fire engineer links up with a bus driver who has a ham radio for emergency communication. The fire station dalmatian is released to assist her crewmates outside. Armed with extra gear, air bottles and hoses, all the firecrews move into the heart of an inferno in a two pronged attack, one into the main terminal and the second into the blacked out and still burning air traffic control tower. Roy and Johnny rescue an air traffic controller from a burning control tower. Cap finds and resuscitates an airport worker on a search and rescue mission. A major aviation fuel leak is discovered in a ruptured pipeline underneath buckled flooring in the main terminal. Roy and Johnny rescue an air traffic controller from the burning control tower.
People are found trapped inside a burning stairwell and inside a gated airliner.
Only half the victims are extricated when the passenger jet explodes. Dr. Brackett goes to New York to help out in triage. A newborn, a lung burned man, and an ill child are treated in evac. The disaster green zone is relocated to a safer location in a city park near the airport as the fuel fire grows. Airport firefighters struggle to find a pipeline shut off valve to end the fire. A boy is rescued from a luggage conveyer belt but suffers cardiac arrest. A lady doctor in triage is effected when an EMT friend is found injured on the airfield. An airport firefighter is trapped inside a valve room with activated clean agent fire suppression gas.
A female firefighter is overcome by heat. Station 51 and most of their airport fire host crew rushes in to rescue their man stuck in the clean room. Doctor Brackett treats and gives a pep talk to the female firefighter.
Johnny and Roy begin a high angle rescue to enter the terminal around the roof hole created by the fuel fire. The trapped fireman is found buried under debris.
DeSoto and Gage begin to shut off the main fuel valve again that had been started by their victim. Cap and Stoker are trapped on top of a collapsing parking ramp garage while rescuing an old man and little girl. They're forced to jump into a life net when cars begin exploding. Stoker is injured by shrapnel. The trapped fireman is freed and the fuel fire valve is shut off, ending all fire. Post incident,
Dr. Brackett, the national park lady doctor, sheriff's lady pilot and all the arff and the Station 51 gang suffer emotional effects of the ordeal in conmiseration at the airport fire station over dinner. The lady firefighter and arff recovered from his clean room exposure muse over their future. The 51 gang is sleeping it off in a dark bunk room. All except Johnny, who's entertaining the lady pilot, on pillows.

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The Story Unfolds...

Season Seven, Movie One The Fire Within Debut Launch: June 27th, 2008.

The Fire Within, Movie One

:) This episode is dedicated to my paramedic working partner of )
three years, who lost his life. Greg Hicks, I will miss you dearly.
:) Thank you for making me a better EMT than I've ever been before. :)

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by staff writer, Patti Keiper NREMT-B

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Subject: Back To Nature Date: Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:35 am From: patti keiper

Sarah Collins had been driving all night. An hour before noon, she turned onto the last mountain highway indicated on her trip-tic highlighted in crayola crayon yellow, ..her smaller companion's bored handiwork.

She hung an arm out of a window, letting the autumn cool, beech tree laden wind whip into their rusty gray pickup to chase away approaching drowsiness.

Her grandson, Joey, was leaning forward with his head on his hands on top of the dashboard, rubbing his nose. "Are we there yet?"

Sarah smiled. "Sure are. See that brown sign? It says, ... Appalachian Center and National Momument, and Patchogue, Long Island, New York.
Fourteen miles."

An unexpected gust of wind tore the baseball cap from Joey's head to the back seat floor. With a cry of instant dismay, the small boy wormed out of his seatbelt only long enough to fling himself backward over the top of his highback chair to retrieve it. Desperately, he clutched it to his chest as his face twisted with a very old vulnerable anxiety once he returned to his passenger seat. But he did not make a sound.

Sarah glanced over to her eight year old grandson. "Here, Tiger. Let me see it." She pulled up onto the road's shoulder and came to a halt.

Reluctantly, the boy set it carefully onto her lap. Sighing softly, Sarah picked it up and ran neat nailed fingers across the bold stitching across the top above the sharply curved bill. ...U.S.S. Intrepid.. she read as she remembered Ben's fatal accident out at sea. The gold lettering and emblem blurred into the rich navy blue as tears for her dead son,
Joey's father, returned unbidden. She quickly kissed the hat and stroked it fondly as she blinked away tears before the boy would notice them. "Seems all right." she said falsely bright. "Why, it's just as new as when your father broke every law in the traffic book to get it home to you..." she chuckled. She looked up and saw all emotion drain away from Joey's face and it was only then she realized her mistake.

::My G*d.:: Sarah thought. ::I must've said that out loud.:: Shaken, she forced another unreal grin onto her face and then she looked away matter of factly to pull on her black and white checked knit gloves onto fingers growing numb from the chilly the steering wheel. Her heart felt just as chilled and as haunted as Joey looked. But she spoke warmly anyhow. "I know that's your absolute favorite hat of all time. So feel proud. I know I am."

Joey's face finally broke away from its tight silent tension and he took it back from her lap to plunk it onto his head tightly. This time, he held onto the baseball cap with both hands to fiercely keep it there.

Collins grinned and then she reached over his lap to roll up the window on Joey's side until it was just a crack. "There. The wind isn't going to do that again. You can let go of it now."

Joey didn't, as he sat quietly in his seat, hanging on with fully laced fingers.

Sarah just nodded with gentle acceptance and pulled the truck back onto the road and sped up, heading for the wilderness park that was located a few minutes away from an island isthmus airport.

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Above Snowpoint Ridge, Bluebird Five hovered, bearing its three occupants, Ken, Joanne and Terri above the mountain slope, easily.

Ken Baxter pulled the head set onto his neck and shouted over the roar of the bird's rotor blades. "Girls, you know what to do. Rappel down near the north edge, plant the detonation charges in six points at the base with your delay timers set at the ends." He pointed."How about stringing the wire leads to those boulders over there? They should offer protection from the wind long enough for you to light them. Once they're burning hot, get the heck out of there. Don't waste any time. This is a high risk slide area but only inside where you see the scrape away signs and missing trees. Be sure you locate the edge of them first so you'll know where to run. I want you in a safe area within thirty seconds of lighting the caps." he said, chewing on his moustache as he ran the plan through his head once again.

Joanne Almstedt pushed her dark bangs from her eyes. "We got it." said the woman. "Right, Terri?"

Terri Blake, the blond park ranger trainee next to her, snapped back into reality from where she was staring at the snow blown billows swirling around the chopper through the open door. "Huh? Oh,.. Right, Ken. We're set." she grinned as she gave him a thumbs up.

Before Terri could pull off her communications headset, Ken gripped her shoulder. "Terri, if you have any doubts whatsoever about ANYthing,
pull out. Signal. Just raise me on the radio.. and we'll forget the whole thing.
Remember, this aspect of the job's a necessary chore to being a specialized field forest ranger beyond search and rescue. It's gonna be no different than the other five trail clean ups you've already done. Only difference is that this site's gonna react. All right? We're just trail clearing today for all the incoming deer hunters."

Terri smiled and nodded.

-
Roy DeSoto blew on his hands as he nestled uncomfortably deeper into his thick parka. Johnny Gage was driving the camper topped conversion van that held the equally warmly bundled Chet Kelly, Marco Lopez, Mike Stoker and Hank Stanley who were dozing in the back amid stowed fire gear and personal luggage and food coolers.

Johnny threw a look at his shivering partner and took sympathy as he cranked up the heater for his benefit. But that didn't stop him from laughing. Not in the least. "Roy, it's only for nine days. We'll bag our deer, dress him out, have him converted into jerky and steaks for shipping home in two. And then we're traveling on the third and out of this cold. I promise you, we'll get to our hosting fire station on time, just like Headquarters planned out, to learn a few tricks from them, okay?"

"I wouldn't call airport fire suppression techniques just a few tricks, Johnny boy." mumbled Chet Kelly from a back seat. "It's an art all onto itself. Right, Cap?" he asked, nudging the snoring figure slumping and bouncing around next to him.

Hank jarred awake. "Huh? Whaa? Are we there yet? Oh,..Uh,..right." he mumbled sleepily, rubbing his face. "Yeah, Chet. I heard you. No, not just a few parlor tricks. It's a whole facet of firefighting that all of us back home have been sorely lacking. For years, the chief says."

Marco yawned from where he was buried in camping gear. "And we're the lucky ones chosen to be California's ambassadors to the East Coast?"

"Yep." said Hank, raising up in his seat. "We'll get to teach everybody at home what we're gonna learn from the boys in Patchogue. It was nice of Battalion Seven's brother to offer to let us stay in his house for our training days after our hunting trip in the park. I hear it's still Indian summer down there by the ocean."

Gage protested. "Hey, I take offense to that." he piped up, still smiling as he drove.

Kelly countered. "No, you don't. You LOVE that season name. Just like you love the idea that you're dragging the rest of us along on your crazy idea of an annual ceremonial hunting trip as a side activity to our mandatory cross training trip."

Johnny just grinned and kept driving.

Roy finally stopped shivering. He thrust a hand out of the blanket he was buried in and held up a large red licorice bag. "Candy, anyone? We don't have to cook this."

Five hands shot into the air eagerly.

While they were munching the cherry red sticks, a familiar noise rippled into the tightly window closed van.

Stoker sat up with interest. "Hey, that's a chopper passing by. And it's not civilian." They all buried faces to the window glass in an attempt to eyeball the thing. All except Gage, who kept his eyes on the road.

"Our park's got rangers who fly, too." identified Hank. "They must be running a chore or two right now on the mountain. Maybe hunter headcounts on all the campsites."

"In these trees?" Roy asked. "They're all still pretty thickly covered and most of the leaves are still on 'em. They won't be able to see much."

"Maybe they're waiting for nightfall when the campfires start up." said Chet.

"Maybe." Mike agreed. Then he spotted it. "Ah, it is a ranger bird. Trailing a rope on that slope up there above the snowline."

Roy forgot how cold he was. "A rescue in progress?"

"Probably not." said Hank. "Or we would have heard it." he said, aiming a finger at their radio scanner on the dashboard. "How far to Park Headquarters, Johnny, so we can file for our hunting and camping permits?"

"Not far, we're ten miles out." he replied. "We'll just pop in, fill out all the paperwork, then we can grab some coffee at the souvenir shop before heading out to our tag site to make camp."

-
Joanne steadied her line from the open side of the helicopter and watched it fall. "Okay, let's get this show on the road."

Ken Baxter steadied the controls when the two women stepped onto the side rung in their parkas and safetly belts attached to the rope. Joanne rappelled first, swaying in the strong wind as she descended. Then Terri's head disappeared down over the edge.

Watching, Ken leaned over the back of his pilot's chair as he felt the helicopter lift up slightly. ::Good.:: he thought. ::They're both on the ground.::

Carefully, he hit the upreel button on the rigging and retrieved the rope as he swung around to get a better visual angle. He saw Terri and Joanne waving at him from a snarl of rocks, snow and fall leaves. He laughed and waved back and rose to a higher hover where his bladewash wouldn't blind them with debris.

The girls got out the explosives pack and started working with porta shovels.

Twenty five minutes later, Ken saw the figures reeling out the dentonator wires across the snow toward the general area of the rock strewn ridge he had indicated as being a stable refuge to seek. The walkie talkie in his free hand jumped.

##It's done, Bluebird Five. All charges secured and set. And I have the primary timing mechanism armed.## reported Terri Blake. ##Joanne's behind that rock.
See her?##

Ken looked around, spinning in a circle with a soft twist of his pilot's joy stick. All he saw were boulders, half shed beech and aspen trees, and snow. Then he saw a pink.. ::Rock?:: he startled. Then he blushed and started chuckling as he looked away self consciously. Keeping his eyes level with a cloud, he thumbed his mic. "Very funny, you two, very funny." he cracked up. "Now stop your mooning at me and get serious, will ya? I'm getting hungry for the lunch that's still waiting for us."

The girl's hysterics drowned out his request. "Come on, now. Girls..." He gave up,
laughing in another fit that matched theirs. Then he sighed as the pink dot covered itself up again in parka pants. "Okay, you got me good. I was caught completely off guard." he stuttered. It was a lie.

Satisfied, the two rangers below finished their mocking dance and got back to work.
Eventually, the cold made Terri and Joanne hasten their final checks on the slope.

Terri got back on the air. ##Okay, Ken. Everything's ready. How do things look up there?## she radioed.

Ken got out a pair of binoculars and located the six orange flags marking the explosives holes buried in the deep snow. They were in a perfect line under the snow curling rock ledge in just the right places. "Looks good to me." he replied. "Are you two dug in?"

##Yep.##

"Okay, set your primer for three minutes and only light up on my mark. I'm going to circle around to be sure that hunters aren't anywhere near us."

##Roger that.## toggled Joanne. She said, eyeing up the slope above them in apprehension. ##All set and waiting for word.##

A minute later, they could see the chopper returning from his terrain sweep.
##Activate charge.##

Joanne threw a switch which lit the fuses mechanically. The spark buried itself in the snow as it began to burn and travel on down the line underneath the surface.

Terri spotted something 100 yards away on the snow field through her binoculars.
She went white with fear. "Oh no! Joanne! The far side connection isn't hooked up at all! I was laughing so hard, I must have forgotten to wire it down."

Joanne just sighed and smiled. "Don't worry. The one we've got rigged on the other side'll be more than enough to start the avalanche. It'll roll. Trust me."
she said, pulling up her fur parka ranger's uniform hood onto her head.

Terri wasn't convinced. "But that's just the problem, Joanne. Our near charges will loosen the snow on our side, but not on the other side. Won't the snow get channeled directly towards us?"

"It won't. Snow's not like dirt. It'll be okay. Leave it."

"I'll be back in a sec. I can fix it fast enough." Blake said, hopping to her feet.
She began to run out onto the snow field before Joanne could stop her.

Joanne called out her name in warning and failed to tackle her feet in a trip.
"No! Terri.. Get back here now! There's not enough time!"

Up in the air, Ken saw her move and yelled into the radio. "Terri! Stop!
Get out of there. Now!" he ordered.

But Terri had long ago dropped her pack and radio by Joanne in an effort to run faster. The wind made it hurt to breathe as she ran in the ankle deep snow and it blew into her eyes, driving ice under her eyelashes. She blinked,
tearing, and ran faster. "There!" she shouted, seeing the line of flags a few feet away. She hurtled herself onto her stomach and twisted the frozen wires together. "Got you.." she gasped, and just as swiftly, threw herself back onto her feet for the dash back over to Joanne and their safe spot.

Then the ridge exploded above her as the demolitions went off.

She was halfway back across the slope when she heard a roar, a deep throated cascade of sound, begin to vibrate all around her. ::The avalanche!:: she thought. A reflex reaction to look up the mountain caused her to trip and fall hideously onto her face in the soft snow. She ducked reflexively and covered her head, waiting for the end as the din grew louder as it rumbled rapidly closer.

Then she heard Ken's voice blasted through the loud speaker. ##Grab the rung!##

Terri looked up and saw the helicopter's foot bars just over her head. She grabbed it just as the snow pack exploded into motion around her inside of the newly born avalanche. Squeezing her eyes shut, Terri pounded on the door of the chopper.
"Go! Go now!" She locked her elbow tight and saw the ground fall away below her as Ken frantically gained altitude. She heard the blades strain with her increased uneven weight and she felt him battle to counter balance the chopper. She felt stinging projectiles of ice start to pelt her legs and stomach as the slide deepened and threatened to drag her free of the runner. Heavy snow clouds smothered her, shoving and snatching. It grew dark and suffocating.

Terri's thoughts shrank down to a blind tiny plea.. ::Only a few feet more! Only a few feet:
Terri saw bright sunlight suddenly stab into her eyes and then she knew nothing more.

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Sarah Collins squinted at the glare of the hot sun and she shut the shade next to her bed. ::Whew.. it's hot here in the valley. It's a perfect day to go swimming:
she thought. Indian summer had bitten hard and the temperatures were climbing despite the amber and yellow of the fall leaves billowing in the trees outside.

Joey Collins ran out of the bathroom in his swim trunks, trailing a towel, and chewing on his beloved baseball hat. "Grandma, can I bring my navy ships, too?"

"Well, I don't know.." she said, quite honestly.

"Paul Carnes said I could if I were careful." said the boy, wide eyed, with a toy in each hand, a well worn frigate and an aircraft carrier moulded in silver plastic.
Sarah could see the navy figures Joey had carefully taped to their decks by their feet as he pushed them along the wooden floor between them.

"Was careful, dear." She sighed. "All right. I guess so if that nice, young ranger said you could."

"Don't worry. He did. He even asked to see all of them, too." With an excited yell, Joey packed his ships in hasty scoops into his battered wooden suitcase,
shut it, and dashed out the door of the cabin dorm noisily.

Sarah shouted after him. "Don't forget to eat lunch in the cafeteria!"

"I won't! Don't worry."

Paul Carnes had been very polite to them and had shown great patience to Joey's insistent questions about the ranger's base station. ::Even the one asking about whether or not their helicopters had toilets in back.:: she thought with amusement.

Sarah had found out that the Appalachian Center Park was just more than the usual state park with an assortment of picnic tables, trails and directories. It was a research base, hospital, heliport, fire base, wildlife management site, and a national momument, all within 100,000 square acres of mountains, marshes and partially developed small town island coastline. And it served 525, 000 tourist visitors and New York state residents every year. Their state of the art camping services was the whole reason for the Collins trip out east. They both still had some healing to do with the loss of Benjamin and Sarah figured the best way to do that was to get the boy and herself back to nature at its roots. She had booked them for a five day expedition into the mountain valley directly below Snowpoint Ridge which was already wearing its winter cap of white in the upper elevations.

Sarah smiled at the way it looked. It was shimmering in the heat, framed by the light orange wavering beech tree leaves rustling in the breeze around the window. ::Joey does need to get away.:: she decided once more. ::Away from home and bad memories. Not to forget them, but to recover something very vital to the boy's well being...:: Unbidden, a tear fell down her cheek silently. ::And mine.:: she sighed mentally.

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"Joanne, I don't know why you're making such a big deal." Terri shrugged,
as Almstedt taped up her various scrapes and cuts and applied a compress to the big bruise on her leg. "I was fine. I just tripped, that's all.
Ouch!" she said when her doctor friend washed out a laceration a little too roughly with sterile saline, and dressings.

"Terri Blake, you were almost killed today. We almost lost you to that avalanche. If Ken hadn't've been able to steady the chopper--" she broke off, choking up. "Oh, Terri. You're my best friend. But sometimes you just don't think." she said exasperated. "You being my best nurse is besides the point. Lately, you've been proving yourself to be an absolutely lousy park ranger. Paul's still deciding whether or not to drop you from the program all together."

"What?! Why? I wasn't killed. So I got a scratch on the leg." she said,
wincing. "What did I do wrong?" the red blond haired girl asked, wincing at the stitches pulling under the gauze that Joanne had just taped into place.

"Everything.." Joanne said, peeling off her gloves angrily. "You risked yourself dangerously for no good reason."

"I was born in the heart of New York City. Do you expect me to just take to the great wild outdoors overnight? I'm not used to anything up here.
Not yet anyway." Terri insisted. "Look, I'm sorry. I come from the big city, working as an inner city R.N. There's no written orders for me to follow on a chart, okay? I'm not used to that."

"There are spoken ones. Ones that'll keep your butt safe if you choose to listen. A park ranger is much more than just being a tour guide in a mounty hat. You have to listen to us, while we're teaching you." Joanne began to pace, her long dark hair fanning around her brown cherubic eyes.
"That you don't seem to do at all, Terri. Why? Have you got a deathwish or something? You could have died up there today." she said,
taking a seat again, to recheck her wrapping job.

"This... is just.... a scratch." Terri insisted, finally turning pure iron,
holding her body stiff with anger.

Joanne gave out a sigh of exasperation as she rolled back on her wheeled stool in the medical cubicle. "A little scratch?" she exclaimed in disbelief. "Listen Terri, when I got to you, you were out cold. Your grip on that rung was so tight, it took a muscle relaxant to pry your fingers and arm free. At first we though you broke your back, so we boarded you."

"Well I'm fine, okay? Vitals normal remember?" she mocked.

The silence stretched between the two women like sour taffy.

Finally, Joanne whispered. "What were you thinking out there, Terri?
What could possibly be more important than your job?"

Terri snapped, pulling her eyes away from the spot on the ceiling at which she had been staring unseeing. "That's just it, ok?"

"What is?" Joanne asked, thoroughly frustrated and worried.

"You don't get it, do you?"
Terri's face hardened as she withdrew. "Listen, Joanne. Get off my back. You're entering VERY personal territory." she said through clenched teeth. Rapidly, the thirties something nurse began to pull her gown off before she put her new clothes and pants back on. "If you guys are through with me, I'm leaving."

"Why are you so mad? I know you're not mad at me.." Joanne struggled to think. Then it dawned. "Oh, so that's it. You're worried about your career switch, aren't you?"

Terri brushed impatient red hair away from her scratched, still thawing face. "What's it to you?" she snapped, suddenly defensive.

"Everything if it's tearing my best friend apart."

Terri's snarling wall crumbled. "Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah.. All right then. So? So I'm a little bugged. Okay, uh, all right. I AM worried. You say I'm not doing well in the program...Now that's a little scary."

::A crack in the dam.:: Joanne thought and she smiled. "You gave up two scholarships for medical practitioner school just for this job,
didn't you?"

"How'd you find out about that? Getting d*mn*d nosy in your old age, aren't you?"

"Paul told me." Joanne said, the smile failing.

The last of Terri's rage seeped away. She blushed in apology but didn't say anything.

"You do like what you do now, don't you?" Joanne asked softly.

Terri's face collapsed in misery. "I don't know. I just don't know.."
she sobbed.

"You must want this very badly to care so much." Terri said,
taking her into a hug. "You gave up your chance at med school to start a field ranger's job from scratch. Now that's something in my book. And that's what I'm going to tell Paul."

Blake sniffed, her emotions turning numb, on auto-pilot.
"My head hurts." Terri mumbled, feeling vulnerable and raw.
Dr. Almstedt grinned gently and straightened up in her white lab coat. "Mine would too, if I had half a mountain land on me.
Now off to bed. You're still shaking. I'll follow you to your dorm."

"What?" Terri said numbly, as they separated.

"I'm releasing you." she said, taking off her stethoscope and putting it into her pocket.

"Why? I thought I had to be under observation for twenty four hours because I was unconscious."
Terri asked, surprised.

"That was psychogenic. Your films are clear. I want you to think about your life here and how far you want to go with it. Seriously. Just why did you pick my particular neck of the woods to play in? That's the burning question I think." she said, firmly glaring.

Terri hesitated. She had never really thought of why past the whimsy of not being citybound. Unbidden, her mind betrayed her. ::Paul Carnes is here.:: it said. But out loud,
Blake replied carefully. "Maybe.. because.. I wanted to find out whether or not I could handle it and my only chance was to go right then. A once in a lifetime opportunity.
I would've never forgiven myself if I had let that slip by."

Hearing just the offered false reason, Joanne beamed. "Exactly." she said, peeling off her white coat. She pulled the curtains back from around their exam room. "Let's go."

R.N./ Park Ranger rookie Terri Blake took a long time before following.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chet Kelly whistled low in his throat as the gang piled into the main lodge. "This is some reception area." he said,
tugging his fisherman's cap a little more firmly onto his head. "Weather radar, automated nature exhibits,
emergency communications dispatch, and a clinical hospital. I'm impressed." he said, spinning around in a circle.

Paramedic Park Ranger Captain Paul Carnes scoffed at him from his desk. "Did you think this was just another log cabin appearing, bare bones, unheated nature center,
complete with zitfaced college students reading off Smokey the Bear propaganda?"

"Well, no I.."

Paul let Kelly off the hook. "We do that, too." he grinned,
rubbing his gray stubbled rugged chin. "Hi, Welcome to Appalachian Central. What can I do for you today?
I'm in charge here. The student who normally warms this seat, is at lunch."

Hank Stanley stepped eagerly forward. "Uh, sorry, didn't mean to show our ignorance so loudly. We're from California, L.A. area. We're going deer hunting for the next three days. Tag number 70." he said, presenting paperwork.

"How many?"

"Six." Roy spoke up.

"Know how to keep yourselves from getting lost in the woods? How to handle camp fires safely?"

"Absolutely." Cap chuckled as the others did.
"We handle fire every day."

Paul didn't get the joke or the reference. But he smiled anyway. "Okay." he said, pulling a handy talkie from a lower desk drawer. We issue a short wave radio out to every hunting party. This is.."

"...an H.T. 100. With a range of ten miles by repeater tower and a range of a hundred feet from the local aerial rod powered by a nickle ion battery." Hank replied.

"Yes, that's right." Carnes said, eyeing up his visitors with new respect as he took their identification information down on his forms. Then he noticed the symbol on all of their licenses. "Oh, well that explains it. Sorry, fellows. We're not used to fire and EMS professionals hunting here. We're usually not that fortunate. We typically get young upstarts from the city who've never handled a bow or gun in the woods before, and they go shooting up the place." He started laughing as he sipped his cold coffee. "Sometimes, I think we pull more shot hunters off the mountain than we do whitetails. Doe or buck permit?"

"Buck. We're all sharing the venison and yeah, we found a guy in town to butcher and prepare the meat afterwards. He'll ship it home for us, too." Hank said.

"Nice. Any other business scheduled in the park?"

Marco replied. "Not unless a plane crashes here."

Paul's brow wrinkled at that answer and he actually looked up from his electric typewriter.

Stoker elaborated as he picked up park maps,
trail pamphlets and guidelines from the table next to them. "We're crosstraining fire prevention at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma all next week."

"Oh, at Islip." Paul said. "That's just over the mountain.
Sure as the crow flies. It's right on the ocean."

"Thanks."

Carnes finished up their paperwork and handed them their issued radio. "Use channel eight for any questions.
Our dispatcher will forward you to any services you might need, anything from search and rescue to local tour guide. Just call. 24/7. We even offer hunters flights by helicopter overseeing their tag area's terrain."

Gage spoke up. "Uh, we won't need that. I'm an expert tracker."

"So you say." said Chet, teasing.

"Well I am." Johnny insisted, frowning at Kelly.

Paul Carnes expression was professionally polite as he ignored their antics.

Lopez wondered. "Any restaurants here?"

"The cafeteria, next building over. Food's served from noon to two and then six to eight every night. There's even a pool hall and indoor swimming park." Carnes replied warmly.

"Cool! Cap can we-" Kelly began.

Hank cut him off without even moving his head.
"Nope. There's camp to set up. If we have time after we get our buck and bring him into town, then you can go."

"Aww, Cap."

"Just you shush." Hank said, holding up a serious finger.
"If you go now, you won't know where we are. Stoker's got all our maps. And I know you don't know how to read forest ones."

Kelly sighed like a kid denied candy.

Just then, the door connecting the tunnel leading to the local hospital opened and two women wandered into the lodge. One of them was limping. Johnny's practiced paramedic eye noticed the fresh injuries and their ranger clothes.

"Ooo.. looks painful." he commented. "What happened to them?"

Paul looked up with undisguised relief at Terri Blake and Joanne Almstedt. "The younger one thought she'd become a Hollywood stunt double during a demolition exercise to loosen packed in snow. The one holding her arm,.. is her doctor."

"Doctor?" Johnny startled, the interest in his eyes suddenly sparking.

Paul just sighed, seeing another tourist Romeo encounter in the making. He gestured to them. "Come on. I'll introduce you. I have to grab their reports anyway. Hey Joanne! Terri!
Wait up!" he circled round his desk, picking up his portable radio on multiple channel scan.

The two women halted at the glass entryway doors and turned around.

Beside Johnny, Chet breathed in expansively. "I think I'm in love."

Gage shot him an irritated glance. "Learn to be a gentleman, okay?"

"Oh, and you are?" Kelly scoffed instantly, only partially harsh.

The gang wearing camping gear tramped forward to meet the still flight tunic'd park ranger women.

"This is going to be a wonderful vacation, Roy. Just like I said."
Gage told Desoto, smacking him on his arm as he walked ahead eagerly.

"Only for some of us, pal." He trailed off when he saw that his partner was already long gone. "Good luck." he offered belatedly. DeSoto had finished rubbing his tired eyes when he finally joined him and the others at their side.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A winter road in a New York state forest.

Photo: Sarah Collins, grandmother type, blond hair.

Photo: Joey Collins, grandson to Sarah.

Photo: A U.S.S. Intrepid naval cap.

Photo: Park rangers working on a snowy mountain in safety red, with explosives near a chopper.

Photo: A slope ranger planting a charge in snow.

Photo: An avalanche.

Photo: Pilot / Park Ranger Ken Baxter, shouting down inside the chopper.

Photo: Johnny and Roy driving the rover in a forest.

Photo: The Station 51 gang wearing street clothes, laughing.

Photo: Doctor / Park Ranger Joanne Almstedt, in a hospital, worried.

Photo: R.N. Park Ranger Terri Blake lying injured on a gurney.

Photo: An extravagant National Park Lodge Lobby.

Photo: Park Ranger Paramedic Captain Paul Carnes, smiling.

Photo: Roy DeSoto in street clothes, grinning happily.

*
From: patti k () Sent: Sun 11/23/08 1:49 AM Subject: Hit and Miss

Paul Carnes preceded the group of men he had just learned were firefighters over to the actively fussing Joanne Almstedt and the still slow moving Terri Blake under her supporting arm.

Reaching out, Carnes lifted Blake's chin, appraisingly analyzing her injuries.
"Terri, so nice of you to not call me as soon as you could." Paul smiled through tightly polite teeth. His sugared glare also chided Joanne the doctor for not instigating the same courtesy. "I love being left in the--- "

Terri cringed self consciously and shrugged her shoulders. "Joanne says I'm fine enough, or I wouldn't be up and walking around." she coughed, grimacing as her muscles twitched underneath her light clothes. She met his eyes only reluctantly. ::Is he mad at me?:: she thought. ::Oh, please, don't be mad.:: thought the red haired student park ranger/nurse."I'm really really sorry, Paul. Do you really believe I expected to become part of the mountain when I got up this morning?
I only wanted to climb it and blow up a few bits like the rest of the team."

"Let's just say we'll be discussing all of this later over a power lunch or two, hmm? Oh, look. Guests!" Captain Carnes warned her as Chet Kelly and Johnny Gage got within earshot. "Terri,.. Joanne... Meet a fire and med crew from California. They're going to try their luck bowhunting whitetails."

Terri and Joanne both gave the new arrivals weakly enthusiastic smiles when they caught the glint of male interest from the first two in the group.

A dark haired, copper skinned young man stepped forward.
"Hi there. I'm Johnny Gage, and this is my friend er.. actually, more of a good coworker--"

"...Best pal." piped up Kelly instantly, holding out his hand eagerly in front of Terri's scratched up free one.

"...Chet Kelly." Gage finished brightly game, despite his veiled irritation at being beaten out of a handshake.
"Charmed fellas." Dr. Almstedt said, reaching over Terri's reaching fingers to intercept the curly haired fireman's greeting grip instead. "Uh,.. have fun in the park, on us, okay? Maybe later Ken Baxter, our pilot, can give you the flying tour." she added in a rush, abruptly turning Terri around with her to started heading back over to the dormitory.

"Sure. Sure.. don't let me stop you." said Kelly in a chivalrous beam. "I see you're kinda busy and--"

"Here!" Gage said warmly. "Let me help you with the doors ladies..." he said,
grandly, stepping out hastily with a gentlemanly bow as he opened them for the pair. "Eh heh. Have a nice day. See you later perhaps?" he suggested,
maneuvering around Kelly's front spot.

Joanne thwarted Terri's curious replyback with a poke into a sore rib. "There's always that chance...." she blurted as they disappeared into the corridor.

The glass doors closed behind them. "....next spring.." Almstedt chuckled.

Terri protested, trying to look around Joanne's shoulder. "Hey, that was rude. And they seem like really nice guys, too."

Almstedt was firm. "You're my patient and we're still in the middle of a transport between facilities. Flirt all you like in the morning..."

Terri's face fell and she scoffed. "Psssft."

"....with Paul."

Blake's jaw dropped and she paled more than what her injuries attributed to.
"Wh-- You know about me liking him?!" And she sagged, stunned.

Laughing, Joanne kept her on her feet. "Terri, you've been broadcasting that message to the whole team without a radio,.. for weeks now. It's far from being a secret admiration. I think the only person who doesn't know it is.."

"...our captain himself." sighed Terri.

Joanne stopped their progress in front of Blake's dormitory door. She took her name tag hanging on its cord and swiped the magnetic lock open derisively. "It's not the end of the world yet, or even the day if you shower fast enough.."

"Yes, it is.." Blake pouted. "I'm afraid I'm not hungry anymore."

"Only for food." Joanne winked, correcting her.

Blake made a face. "Get outta here." she said, entering and crooking her thumb. She slammed the door in her friend's face teasingly. With force.

"I'm gone.." Doctor Almstedt chuckled, heading back the way she had come to go give Carnes her medical report on Terri. "Looks like you're fully recovered." she smirked.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Terri Blake, Ranger R.N. smiling.

Photo: Park Ranger Captain Paul Carnes, firm look.

Photo: Dr. Joanne Almstedt looking analytical.

Photo: Johnny Gage in paisley, cheeky.

Photo: Chet Kelly in fish gear, nerdily dressed.

Photo: The gang setting up deer camp tents.

Photo: Gage's rover by the shores of a fall lake.

*
From: patti k () Sent: Tue 11/25/08 4:18 AM Subject: Starting Gate...

It was dawn at the International Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York. A brisk chill breeze was blowing over the runways and open spaces of ISLIP from the ocean, but the morning was far from quiet locally.

*Honk! HonnnnKKKKkkkk!* Airport Rescue Firefighter Chris Rorchek slammed the fire van's truck horn once again at the guard shack at the gate surrounding the runway field.

His bumper was only inches from nudging the lowered brightly striped and light winking gate arm.

Beside him, and belted in the bright yellow mobile van, was his brother and fellow firefighter Ted Rorchek, who chuckled.
"Easy, Chris. It'll take all day to get through if you get too belligerent."

Chris, a large, towering brown haired, hazel eyed man with a crew cut, glared at his younger brother. "Geez, Ted. This is the state of New York. How can anybody from here come on too strong, huh? We're all real direct and we yell. It's how we communicate with each other." Irritated, he reached behind him into a duffle bag and pulled out another strapped square satchel to put into his lap. "Hey buddy!
Come on already! We're not strangers here for Pete's sake! What part of the logo on the side of our truck don't you understand?!" He shouted through the wind shield.

Ted laughed again. "In this light, you can't see anything yet. And I'll just bet the darkness is still making us look washed out. We could very well be that lost passenger taxi van he thinks we are."

"That's his problem!" Chris boomed. "He must be real blind if he can't see the lightbar silhouette on top." He grumbled, slumping into his belted seat. He sighed hugely and rubbed his hungry face.
"Now you know why I hate going off property on business errands for dad. We have these lame-brain outer gate guys to deal with every morning."

"You should be used to this then. He's probably only carrying out his ordered procedures, step by step. And besides, Dad needs us to pick up some of the more nitty grittier chores of fire chief for him while he gets set for our guests coming in a few days." Ted said.

"You mean those California fire boys? I don't like 'em already.
I mean, how can anybody who's never seen snow handle fighting fire in this cold?"

"It hasn't snowed yet." Ted countered mildly, still grinning.

"No, but it will, soon after they get here." Chris insisted.
"That's what the tower said."

"What's that have to do with anything? Hot or cold, these are L.A. County firefighters coming to train with us. They see fifteen times the business we do." Ted said, admiration stars in his eyes. "All we get are terminal building medical calls and small aircraft emergency landings on a regular basis."

"Maybe, but we're good." Chris pointed a finger at him.

"Yeah, we are. But so are they, so don't judge them before the fire engine's left the bay. It won't take long to acquaint them to our kind of equipment and fire protocols. Our automated stuff's probably gonna seem weird to them." Ted suggested.

Chris's eyes mirrored a little boy's fondness. "Yeah, supertankers, and high energy thermal suits.." he chuckled, instantly happy.

Then the older brother sat upright when the guard put down the phone receiver back into its cradle. "Ooo. Ooo. He's gonna do it. He's gonna let us in faster than fifteen minutes this time."

Ted broke off his speech about fellow firefighters as he, too,
held bated breath as they both watched the security guard move inside the shack.

Then the phone rang again. Faintly. In the shack.

"Noo. no. no. no. no!" Chris chided as the guard's distracted hand reached up to answer it.

Oblivious, the guard picked it up after only a half second's scrutinizing glance at the airport vehicle still waiting outside.

Ted chuckled. "OhHhhhhhhhh.., bad luck." Then his face fell when he caught a slight avoiding smile blossoming on the security guard's mouth. "Wait a minute. That's gotta be Mike Porter working us, man. Just gotta be." And his own anger started rising.

"From the tower?" Chris asked, incredulous.

"Yeah. He IS the head air traffic controller tonight, isn't he?"

Chris was already ignoring Ted. He was glaring at the faintly dawnlit guard shack again. "I should call the station,
right now, and have them buzz the shack with a spot light. That'll wake him up."

Ted scoffed, and thunked his head against his rolled up side window in resignation. "Bad idea. Then he'll initiate his unknown emergency protocols and lock down that gate arm of us from his point of view, Chris. I--"
Chris eyeballed Ted firmly. "Do we look like civilians to you?"

Ted sighed, and angled his tawny light brown feathered hair,
glancing significantly at their casual jackets, shirts and blue jeans under the dome light they had turned on in order to be face visible. "Yep."

Chris set both fists onto the steering wheel of the van and just sighed with a look of long suffering. "Next time, we wear turn out coats."

"We don't have any extra, remember? That's why we went into town today, to requisition a few more." Ted answered.

Chris turned down the airport control tower's radio chatter on their receiver band embedded into the fire rescue truck's dashboard.
"Don't remind me. Then I'll remember that Dad's the chief who ordered--"

"..asked--" Ted interjected patiently.

Chris didn't even hear him. "..us to play supplyman for our soon to arrive warm weather freaks--"

"..friends--"

"..so they'll be nice and comfortable playing with our fire hoses and trucks."

"That's the spirit!" Ted winked, happy with the slight positive Chris injected into his running commentary. "You remembered your promise to be more..." he sucked in his breath appraisingly ".. uplifting."

"That's only because I lost that bet with Al." Chris groused.

"Best bet you ever lost." Ted said quickly, straight faced.

Chris pursed his thick lips. "Yeah? Well Al's not here." he said,
squaring off his still irritated jaw. "I'm gonna reiterate our STAFF position on an ape level that even THAT guy out there, can understand."
His foot revved on the gas pedal.

"Don't do it, Chris.. I'm warning you.." Ted said, gripping the dashboard.

Barely visible, the security officer in front of them had turned his back on the two ARFF men while he talked on the phone to Mike Porter while he fake checked his information written down on the slateboard he was holding in the other hand.

Chris Rorchek finally did it. He flicked on their reds and hit the siren wailer.

The guard inside the shack immediately dropped the phone and threw up the gate, responding automatically to his training. Chris shot by the guard shack at high speed and pretended to head for the terminal as if on an emergency call, but then veered off back towards the runway fire station a few seconds later once they were out of sight around a taxiing jet plane.

They were immediately hailed by Gene Skidwell, Mike Porter's boss, on radio. ##3-22-5, this is Tower. We copy your active emergency. Do you need runway escort to the terminal?##

Ted flicked their lights to black and muted their siren quickly.

Chris started laughing. Loud and long. "He's fast, that one. I hope Porter saw us, too." he said, slowing their speed. "Man, Skidwell must have binoculars glued to his eyeballs if he noticed us way out here."

Ted hissed. "Shhhh!" and snatched for the radio. "Uh, Tower, this is 3-22-5. That's a negative. We were a.m. equipment check per back on property protocols.." he covered.

##Copy band. Non Code Red. Tower out.##

Chris was still laughing at making his little brother lie on radio as they pulled onto the runway straightaway that led to their firestation's tarmack, two minutes later.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: An airport tower and jet plane silhouette at dawn.

Photo: Morning light on a runway tarmack.

Photo: ISLIP airport fire rescue van. Yellow.

Photo: Chris Rorchek, airport firefighter. Looking irritated.

Photo: Ted Rorchek, airport firefighter. Laughing.

Photo: An air traffic controller in a tower, glaring out windows.

Photo: Supertankers in a garage bay at an airport fire station.

*
Subject: Reversal From: patti k () Sent: Fri 11/28/08 11:36 AM

Chris Rorchek deftly opened the black pack he had gathered into his lap and pulled out a fully loaded thirty five mm camera, with a wicked telephoto lens. "Ted, drive for me here for a sec, okay?" And he let go of the steering wheel with both hands.

"Ahh!" his younger brother exclaimed. He quickly panicked as he took over, the fire van weaving badly for a moment.

"What the heck are you doing now, Chris? Geez! Trying to get us to hit a runway marker or something?"

"No," Chris replied obliquely scholar. "I've got a great shot here and I'm not going to miss it." he said from behind his camera lens. "Do me a favor and pull up on the east side of the stationhouse, right under the security camera."

"Where? I don't see anything that's even remotely snappable."
he said, distractedly turning his head around in a circle.
"Oh, wait. Wow, what a sunrise.."

"Yeah.." said Chris, not really listening. "Ain't she a beauty?" he sighed, actually taking pictures of something else. "And she's always there." he remarked.

Ted immediately frowned. "The sun? No it isn't."
he said as he deftly braked the fire station van smartly under the camera from where he was sitting in the passenger's seat.

"Thanks. Here is just perfect, bro." Chris said eagerly.
Then he remembered what he had heard from Ted.
"Not the sky. That plane. The one that's always there that looks like Air Force One. I'm planning on having a little fun this afternoon with some serious payback for a thorn we both have digging in our sides." Chris chuckled, grinning evilly as he snapped eagerly away at the full sized jet after making sure his camera was the same view as the security camera's that was scanning above them.

"Mike Porter..." he guessed correctly.
Ted glanced from camera to camera and out again at the mysterious jet glowing in the rising sunlight in dismay. "You know, I'm not even gonna ask what you've got planned. This is stupid." and he slammed his foot down on the gas pedal.

Chris's head bounced off the seat back and he had to fight to not drop his camera.. "Hey.... I'm not finished yet!"

Ted screeched them away from the spot and around the building to the firestation's main bay doors. "We're late." he explained. "Or do you want to miss breakfast?"

"We can always EXPLAIN to dad and the others why we were late."
Chris said.

Ted grinned dangerously. "Oh, really? Do you want to spill the beans about the shack guard being in cahouts with a guy we know in the flight tower, who was messing with us?" he said, not taking his passenger's eyes off the service road in front of them as he drove.

"Yeah.." Chris shrugged, going over his camera protectively to make sure it hadn't been damaged by the jarring he took from the sudden acceleration. "No problem there. Why DON'T we tell Dad, the chief?" he asked in agreeable mock.

Ted's mouth flopped open as he deftly moved the fire van to the front of the station and hit the switch to activate the garage opener.
"What if Dad decides to request a video review of our little incident? And sees that fake Code 3 stunt you did in order to get us through the gate a little faster?" Ted asked.

Chris giggled, very pleased with himself. "He'd probably laugh." he smirked.

"No he wouldn't. He'd yell. Real loud." Ted led on, trying to get his older brother to see the gist of that particular outcome. He pulled the truck forward into its usual spot next to the massive lime green foam tankers resting on either side of them.

Chris just blinked, not comprehending. "Well," he finally said. "No surprise there. He's a New Yorker, too, little brother."

"The rest of the gang would hear it, Chris." Ted finally clarified. "And I for one, don't want to be the butt of everybody else's teasing jokes just because you decided to have a little fun at my expense out there." he glared, pointing. Then he got out and slammed the door in his brother's face. "And stop making references to my physical height. It's not funny." said the tiny, small boned athletic firefighter through the windshield's glass.

Chris rolled down his driver's side window, totally surprised.
"I meant that in another sense. You know, as in younger?"

"I'm sure you did.." said Ted, fuming, heavily sarcastic.

Chris sat there and shrugged, puzzled, still camera heavy in one hand. "Hey, okay, nobody has to know about our little gate entry headaches. That can be our own little secret." he insisted, straight faced.

Ted just threw upset hands at him and walked away without looking back,
making for the firebay's kitchen and the rich heady smells of food coming from there.

Chris, still trying to make light of Ted's new bad mood, took rapid pictures of his brother's retreating back. The echoes of the shutterfly rocketting around the vehicle bay failed to regain Ted's lost attention. So Chris stopped wasting film.

The big fireman ran a tongue over his teeth thoughtfully. "Now that's a milestone. He's cranky and I'm not." he chuckled. "Hmph." he grunted in mild amusement. He got out of the van and headed for a nearby closet, the one he had turned into his own personal little dark room.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Airport firefighter Ted Rorchek looking peeved in a uniform.

Photo: A fireman, with a camera, taking pictures.

Photo: Airport firefighter Chris Rorchek, puzzled.

Photo: Fire Chief Joe Rorchek and a female firefighter cooking breakfast over a fire station stove.

Photo: A guard shack at an airport.

Photo: A lime green airport fire truck numbered, 3-22-2.

*
Subject: The Windfall.
From: patti k () Sent: Sat 11/29/08 3:01 AM

New transfer ARFF Hallie Green picked up her feet more as she ran her morning run alongside runway 19A, her favorite track at work. The brisk air was making her feel invigorated and a very rare sweat hadn't yet made an appearance.

The same wasn't true of her male companion who was starting to fall behind her as he gamely tried to keep up. "Hallie, I might have sprained an ankle here.
Have some sympathy." groaned her fellow firefighter Al Martelli. "Can't you slow down a little?"

"Nope. Not in the game plan. If I slow down, I cramp up later. Besides, we've only gone about five miles.
You can't be tired already.." said the petite blond haired pixie like girl cheekily, still running easily in her fire station jogging suit.

"Not.. not tired.. Wounded more like.. This runway's skirt is pure torture! How can you run by this one?" he gasped, still favoring his right instep as he moved up alongside of her.

"I think I like the fact that there are hills and hidden things I have to avoid, like that gopher hole you missed seeing a few hundred yards back." she replied, not even breathless.
A few strides later, she glanced over at the pain in his face.
"Martelli, I could call in the equipment for you if you need it."

"No,.. I'm quite... I'm.. doing ..*puff* fine.." he gasped. "See?"
he said, picking up his feet a little. "Lead on, Green. 'Cause I'm not. A lost bet is a.... lost bet.. I do your exercise routine.... for a whole week.." Al told her. "As we agreed."

"You and your bets. They'll be your downfall everytime mister." Hallie told him, running easily, her face finally falling into a tease.

"Not every time... I won against Chris didn't I?" Al coughed,
narrowly avoiding an unexpected electrical post that appeared out of the dawn gloom ahead of him.

Hallie's reply was drowned out by the sound of a jet plane roaring down the runway to which they were coursing parallel.

Green held her breath and turned her back downwind, jogging in place as the stinking plume of fuel fumes washed over them violently as the passenger laden plane took off.

Martelli wasn't so smart, he was caught unprepared and was bowled over into a ditch by the temporarily bad air and violent jetwind.

Green burst out laughing once the cold fresh air reasserted itself.
She leaned over and peered into the ditch. "Ah, Martelli.. you're such a ham. Or did you forget your live plane proximity protocols already?"
she kidded, squinting into the darkness of the grassy dip.

Silence grew as the rapidly receding flight gained altitude.

"Martelli? Are you okay?" Hallie hollered down, reaching for her flashlight on her belt.

"Boo!!" Al screamed as he leaped out from behind a windsock's concrete pylon that was next to her shoulder. He gave her rear a solid smack with a hand at the same time.

Hallie gave a yell and fell onto her butt in fright. "Al! You crazy.."
she sputtered. "..curly haired goon!" she finally got out. "I could of had a heart attack!"

"You're too young for that. I snuck in the office late one night and read your file."

"You men are all alike. You just have to know every female firefighter's age who trapes on through for specialized training from the get go." she glared, still on her rear in the grass.

"Yep." Martelli laughed out loud, with his hands on his sweaty, steaming cold weather geared hips. "Because I'm still a hot blooded, all American guy." said the thirty something Italian.
But then he offered her a hand up. "Had to get you to slow down somehow so I could shake the kinks out of my foot from that gopher hole back there."

"Well you could have asked."

"I thought I did."

"No, you were ordering me to. And we're still the same rank last time I talked with the chief." Green countered.

Al's smile wiped away. "You talked with Joe?"

"Yeah, what's it to ya?" Hallie baited. "Getting worried I'll... say something about ya, like sexual harrassment for example?"

"No, no.. I.. well I.."

"You've been nothing but charming the two weeks I've been here so far. You're weird, and really annoying. But yeah. I told Joe Rorchek that you were being... mostly charming." Hallie admitted.

Al smiled rakishly. "Just call me 'Prince', please." Martelli leaned over his dirty panted knees, trying to catch his breath.
"Thanks. I thought you'd be like all the rest who came through."

"No way, I like to think I've got some class, buddy boy. I'm from Boston, not New Jersey." she scoffed ingenuinely,
still grinning. "I can take a little stereotypical razzing."

Al waved a dismissing hand wearily at her, not looking up from his resting stance, still breathing hard.

"Hey.." Hallie said to him. "Now that I know that neither one of us is going to need CPR, can we continue our run? My muscles are beginning to spaz up."

He threw out a grubby, fall filthy hand holding up one finger.
He took a deep breath, and spat out some mud and spit. Then he lifted his head with a wolfish grin. "After you, my fair lady.."

Hallie was good enough to curtsy. Then she issued a challenge.
"Last one to the station has to do the dishes! OneTwoThree GO!"
and she took off in a cloud of frozen dust.

Al just about messed his pants on the inside. "Wait a minute!
I wasn't ready yet! I still got a fairly recent bum ankle here."
He said, painfully trying to follow at a jog.
"Tough!" she hollered back, still running away from him at a firm, fast applied run. "Grit your teeth and pretend it's not there.
Works for me.."

"Women.." grumbled Al Martelli with a half smile. "I hate em." he said, digging his running steps in firmly in order to catch up with Hallie before she won the race.

Photo: A pixie like blond female airport firefighter, Hallie Green.

Photo: A sweaty Italian firefighter in a gymshirt, Al Martelli.

Photo: Hallie and Al glaring at each other nose to nose at a fire station.
Photo: An airplane jumbo jet, taking off from a runway.

Photo: A dawn sky over an airport.

************************************************** Subject: Payback's a - - - - .
From: patti k () Sent: Sun 11/30/08 2:03 AM

Chris heard a piercing whistle through his dark room closet door. Quickly, he finished washing the finished version of the photo he had taken earlier with Ted in the fixer pan. With french fry tongs, he lifted it out and then clicked off the red light bulb in the tiny space he had worked in.

Ducking around an I.V. tubing clothesline of other clipped on photographs still drying, Chris crawled out into the vehicle bay, with the still wet photograph dangling to keep it from getting smudged accidently.

"I'm coming! There in a sec!" he called out to the fire station at large. He grabbed his stomach as it growled at the smell of breakfast now waiting. Then he picked off the radio that was on his duty belt and keyed the mic with his free hand. "Chris to Harris, grab the eight ladder and meet me on the east side exterior. Phase two's set." he smirked.

##On my way, man. This is gonna be so sweet..## he heard the other firefighter reply with glee on the local station band.

Soon, Rags Harris, a deep voiced, large boned handsome African American firefighter slid down the stairwell railing leading from the kitchen down to the vehicle bay.
"Did it turn out?"

"Yep. And more than fair. Take a look." said Chris Rorchek.

Rags reached out eager fingers. "OOoo ooo *chortle*
Looks just like the original one except for the obvious ch--"

"Shhhh! Don't touch it. It's still fresh." Chris warned, jerking back his tongs and his new picture protectively. "Just go get the step up and meet me outside. I need you to boost me so I can tape it over the camera lens under the eaves."

Rags was giggling like a kid despite his huge size. "How long do you think it'll take for Mike Porter to catch on to us?"

"Longer than an hour for sure. He's not that sophisticated, Rags.
His phone calls to the guard shack, when he sees that we're out there at the gate trying to get in, are about as subtle as a trainwreck."

"Well, what about Security? Won't they notice this and us mucking with Camera One?" asked Rags Harris.

Chris smirked matter of factly after the briefest of hesitations.
"Nah, since when has Security been good for anything around here except calling us in for medical emergencies?" said Chris. "And we won't have to worry about plane-security breach issues either. As soon as the tide rolls out in a couple of hours, the sea's daybreeze will tear it free for us and blow it out over the ocean..." he said, high five-ing the air.

"Evidence erased.." Harris agreed happily. "Wooh!" he said,
meeting Chris's enthusiastic high five. "Let's go get it done."

Two minutes later, the firemen planted their prank deftly without being seen in the security camera's field of view of the storage runway, and were soon off eating happily with the rest of the station crew.

-
In the control tower, the morning was very routine. Security cameras were flicking through their series of rotation images, the main weather radar was clear, and planes were actually listening to ISLIP Tower's instructions for landings and takeoffs fairly accurately.

So, grinning, Air Traffic Controller Mike Porter relaxed a bit with a cup of coffee and put his feet up. For about two seconds. Tops.
Then he whipped them down again off the radar counter.

For his boss Gene Skidwell had entered the flightview floor with his own cup of coffee in a like hand. The burly man paused at the sight of their twin caffeine choices and chuckled. "And it's not even snowing yet."

Mike tried to look nonchalant. "Hmm?"

"Expresso." Skidwell clarified, holding up his own.

Porter misunderstood. "Oh, no thanks. I got Folders." And he fake tapped a radar screen into a higher contrast with a fingernail.

Skidwell sighed and admired the view around them that was slowly unfolding in the bright morning sunlight. As yet,
the low line of snow clouds were staying out to sea. And the metallic glints of taxiing, landing and flight leaving planes were comforting.

Then his eye fell on one screen of the security cam network panel.
He immediately spit out the mouthful he had just taken of his coffee. "What the--?" he sputtered, then he glared at Mike and growled. "Is this your idea of a practical joke?" he spat.

Glancing up from a flightplan checklist, Porter cringed at the tone.
"Uh, wh- uh, what boss?"

"That right there!" Skidwell said, aiming an angry, twitching finger at Camera One directly behind him without taking his eyes off Porter's.

Mike blanched when he noticed what was broadcasting.

Flight One Decoy, Air Force One's target dummy, was sporting an engine for a nose and two nose cones for engines. He began stammering as he rubbed his face in disbelief.

"Well?!" demanded Gene Skidwell.

When Mike opened his eyes, the image display became normal,
just as a gust of wind vibrated the Control Tower. His face betrayed a wide range of emotions when he figured it out as a tiny telltale shred of duct tape fluttered in the live shot.
::Those two *ssh*l*s! I'm gonna kill them!:: he thought.

Craftily, on the outside, he answered his boss truthfully. "Camera One's fully operational, sir. And clean."

Frowning, Skidwell whipped his head back around to that particular monitor. And saw nothing amiss at all.

Gravely, Mike Porter reached over and took the expresso out of his boss's hand. "Here, I'd better finish that. I think you've had a little too much this morning, sir."

"Yeah, you do that.." said Gene numbly as he stared at Camera One.
Then he shuffled out of the room in a daze after one or two weak return glances back at the network cam station along the way.

As soon as Gene was gone, Mike Porter broke a pencil from sheer stress relief. He was no longer smiling.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: ARFF Chris Rorchek, thinking.

Photo: ARFF Rags Harris, delighted and laughing.

Photo: An airport control tower.

Photo: An older air traffic controller Gene Skidwell, noticing something.

Photo: A horrified younger air controller, Mike Porter, speechless.

Photo: A blue jumbo jet with an engine for a nose and nose cones for engines.

Photo: ARFF crew laughing at the breakfast table, in high spirits.

************************************************** Subject: Long Distance Approval From: patti k () Sent: Mon 12/01/08 1:08 AM

Rags and Chris were still laughing when they thundered up the stairs leading to the kitchen. A shout got their attention.

"Just a minute, boys.." said Chief Joe Rorchek from his office at the top of the landing adjacent to the dining area.

"Yeah, dad?" said Chris, peeking into the doorway with Rags after they had backtracked a few stairs.

The silver haired, black eyebrowed man behind the desk in a duty uniform lifted his eyebrows. "Did you get the requisition order placed all right?"

"Sure did. I would have gotten here sooner except Ted and I ran into unforeseen difficulties getting back here." he said, remembering the guard shack delay prank with some heat.

"Delayed? Has the weather turned already?" Joe asked,
surprised, glancing over at the weather radar he had up on the monitor across the room.

"Nah, it wasn't that kind of obstacle. But Rags and I just took care of the problem." Chris chuckled, pleased,
elbowing Harris in the ribs as the two of them celebrated their security camera gag in secret.

"Good. Thanks, boys." said Joe.

"Are you coming for breakfast? It's ready. Somebody gave the high sign a few minutes ago." rumbled Harris,
still grinning.

Joe looked up from a rolodex. "Yeah, I'll be right there. I have a phone call to make first." replied the Chief.

"See you at the table.." said Chris. "I'll save you some bacon."

The two big firemen turned to go when Joe stopped them for a moment. "Oh, and one more thing, fellas...."

Chris and Rags gripped the doorframe as they peeked their heads in again. Both their faces mirrored curiosity.

Joe's face fell into serious lines. "Phase Two, eh?"

Chris and Rags shook their heads in incomprehension.

Joe pointed a pen to his turned on local HT channel scanner that was always active on top of his desk.

::He heard our chatter on the radio?:: Chris thought in dismay.
Chris washed completely pale and Rags would have too if he had had the skin tone to accomplish it. Both pranksters began stammering nervously. Chris immediately began to abase himself. "Oh, Dad. I'm SOooo sorry about that.. we were just-"

The chief's rugged features suddenly let them off the hook.
"Relax, boys. I'm with you. Our oneupmanship joke war with the Tower has been going on for decades now. Glad you finally stuck Mike Porter a notch or two. He's their top player this year." he smirked. "Let me know how that turns out. Inquiring minds want to know."

Both men saluted in mock. "Will do, Chief." And then they left to get themselves some serious food.

Laughing, the gravelly voiced Joe Rorchek lifted the phone receiver and dialed long distance.

The phone rang and was picked up.

##Dr. Brackett, Rampart Emergency..## came the reply.

"Kel Brackett? This is Fire Chief Joe Rorchek from the International Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York."

##Ah, yes. I remember the name from the county's budget report. What can I do for you today, Mr. Rorchek?
Has our L.. fire station crew arrived there yet for their cross training?## Kel asked.

"Not yet. They're scheduled to report to me on Friday,
three days from now. Doctor, the reason why I'm calling.
Can we utilize.. uh.. " as he peered myopically at a file laid out in front of him. "..your John Gage and Roy DeSoto's paramedic statuses while they're here at the station?"

##By all means. A new Registry's extended our local California paramedic program up to the national level just last month. I've already talked with your ambulance service's medical director and he'll be assuming responsibility for all care rendered by my men to the public in my stead. We've transferred licensors temporarily for the extent of their visit with you.##

Joe sighed appreciatively.
"Thank you, doctor. I appreciate the courtesy. We've a few paramedics available to the airport but they are only associated with the ambulance companies who respond to our calls after we do."

##I suspected as much. You East Coasters are still learning our game with the medics-in-firehouses idea.##

"I hope to pitch that training program you started out there to my legislators next session. Maybe we can get the ball rolling a little faster on that avenue." Joe suggested.

##That's why I jumped at the chance at your offer of cross training county fire with airport rescue fire services.
The encounter will undoubtly prove to be mutually beneficial#
Dr. Brackett shared.

"A pleasure, Doctor. Thanks for your endorsement."

##Anytime, Chief. Please call me with any further questions,
thoughts, or ideas. I'm always available through my private messenger service.##

"I appreciate it. Oh, and one more thing." Joe said.

##Sure. What's that?##

"Hug a palm tree for all of us, will you? Somehow just looking at calendars from California around here aren't enough." Joe Rorchek joked, eyeballing the beach one hanging opposite his desk on the station's community board. "We're STILL trying to believe that it's a real place." he joked.

##Only if you save some snow for us. We're stuck in the middle of a late fall heat wave.##

"Deal."

##Stay safe and warm out there, Chief. ##

"Most assuredly. Goodbye, Dr. Brackett."

##Goodbye.##

Joe hung up the phone, and sighed as the first snow flakes began to fall outside his office window.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Rags Harris, looking thoughtful.

Photo: Chris Rorchek looking cornered.

Photo: Fire Chief Joe Rorchek, in close up.

Photo: Chris and Joe Rorchek discussing matters in a fire station office.

Photo: Dr. Brackett in his office on the phone.

Photo: The sight of snowflakes falling against a row of pine trees.

*
Subject: Camaraderie Charms From: patti k () Sent: Mon 12/01/08 1:12 PM Breakfast was a loud, jaunty, happy experience for all six at the fire station at the airport. It seemed everybody talked at once and yet everyone was fully understood by all of the others in a way that only a well knit team could do.

Hallie Green was fresh and showered. And her ex-running partner, Al Martelli, was showered, but far from refreshed.
He was moping about the sink, applying himself to dishes whose pile seemed to be growing as one by one, firefighters added them to the wash water.

"It's got to be karma working, guys, just bad karma. I keep losing all the bets I make." sulked Al, weakily wiping a towel over a plate.

Hallie snorted. "Admit it, Martelli. You're over the hill."

"At thirty?" replied Green with a little afront.

"Yep. It's either that or the fact that you're getting fat." she said ungraciously, but sweetened with a pixie smile.

Martelli threw a towel ball that caught Green on the back of the head.

"And he scores!" said Ted, not looking up from his newspaper.
"Say, guys. Did you see here? There's an Alberta clipper headed our way by Saturday."

Joe Rorchek grunted. "Umm hmm, I already know it's coming. Pass me the salt?"

"He can feel it in his very bones....." said Harris, teasing as he slid the shaker down the table like a talented barkeep.

The shaker miraculously passed all obstacles as firefighters lifted plates, moved mugs, or picked up their feet to get out of its way without looking.

The chief intercepted the offering deftly. "Thanks. My bones aside, this means an ice alert and stepped up vigilance for us a day earlier than that."

"Aww, chief." Hallie moaned.
"Won't be that bad. It's only early December.." Rags countered.
"The tarmack crew can handle those checks just as well as we can."
suggested Chris Rorchek.
"I hate the cold." sighed Martelli.
"Well then, enjoy your hot water.." Ted told him pointedly.

The chief answered them all. "They'll be busy with the holiday crowds and increased flight traffic. I've already volunteered us for regular patrols checking the fuel depots and chem stores. Take on the alpha schedule of shifts, handling that, immediately."

"Yes, sir.." they all said as one, fun instantly quelled for business.

A few minutes later, Al was nursing his dishwater wrinkled hands in a bowl of handcream as he lounged on the couch, digesting breakfast.

A loud burp issued forth from somebody, but no one cared.

And soon, conversation had died down to a blissful silence as everybody either dozed or read or inspected their turnouts and boots for holes from the hooks lined up along the wall.

Rags opened up sleepy eyes when he heard the wind start to howl. "I know what we could do to liven up the place a little. Those beachside calendars aren't enough. I think we should all vote on getting another dog."

Chris scoffed from his perch on the counter where he was doing situps. "A second dog with free rein around here. Hmph. That's brilliant." he said sarcastically. "Why ruin this utter peace and quiet?"

Right then, a close flying jumbo jet taking off, rattled the dishes in the cupboards and made the leftover coffee mugs strewn across the long table, dance in excited jitters.

When the plane quake had passed, Al Martelli grunted in annoyance. "Oh, you mean that peace and quiet?"

Everybody laughed.

Chief Rorchek looked up at the ceiling. "Looks like the new holiday season's begun. That's the third plane in at least as many minutes."

"May they all remain safe and snug for the rest of the year and beyond." Ted said, feeling the change too.

"Here. Here." replied all soberly. Nobody wanted to acknowledge the very reason for their working jobs' existence. For death, when it visited, always came quickly to their playground.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joey Collins ran excitedly through the visitor's center side door with his knapsack in his hands. He ran to the front park ranger's information desk and there he spotted Captain Paul Carnes, working on paperwork. "Hi Paul.."

"Well, hi there, Joey. Did your grandmother give you permission to hang out with me today in a career shadow?"

"She sure did. Here's MY paperwork." he said seriously, adjusting his U.S.S. Intrepid Navy baseball cap absently more firmly onto his head.

Captain Carnes read over the permission slip and waiver and found everything in order. "Well, all right. We're good to go then. But first,
I need about ten minutes more to finish up my business. Then we'll go get your tour started, okay?"

"But you promised to look at my toy ships today." Joey pouted, his deep brown limpid eyes filling.

"I will, son. I will." Paul looked around the counter in front of him. "But I have to get this part of my job done first. Oh, here. I have an idea. This is a map of Lake Augustus. It's big enough to be a whole ocean for those ships of yours to navigate.." he hinted handed out the tourist map in a dangle. "I heard one of the islands was marked as having buried treasure on it..."

"Really?" Joey sniffed, his sadness already evaporated. "Let me see!"

Paul leaned over the counter and pulled down his ranger's hat.
"I won't tell if you won't." he whispered confidentially.

Joey grinned happily and snatched the map away from Paul's hand in a crunch of paper. He ran over to the marble floor near the lobby fireplace and spread out the map. Unceremoniously, he dumped out his navy ship models into an eager pile noisily on top of the unfolded lake map and began to play.

Paul chuckled in his throat, watching him from his desk chair.

"You know, you're really good with kids considering you haven't any of your own yet." said Joanne Almstedt.

Carnes looked up to see his doctor coworker, warmly. "I like to think this job's brought out the best in me over the years since I left working for the ambulance service."

"You're still a very good paramedic." Joanne said, leaning over the counter to face him nose to nose. Her long black hair fell forward around her face in a way that Paul found very attractive. "And I hope we can start to bring out the best in little Joey soon for his grandmother."

"What happened to him?" Paul asked curiously.

"He lost his father in the war and he's having a hard time adjusting.
And he has no mother, she died giving birth to Joey."

"That's rough."

"Sure is. Poor kid." sighed Joanne. "So, if we can make him forget his loneliness for even a day or so while Sarah and he are staying here,
mission's accomplished. I'm footing their bill as part of my charitable counseling work."

"We'll make him happy. One way or another. We always do." winked Paul. Then he turned to other subjects. "How's our star rookie nurse/ranger,
Terri Blake doing nowdays?" he asked tongue and cheek, still not knowing how he felt yet about her little avalanche incident.

Joanne's eyes fell unreadable.
"She's sleeping soundly but normally. I have audio on in her room.
Here's her medical report for the insurance company."

"Thanks." Paul caught Joanne's eyes firmly. "I have to ask. The accident was no fault of her own?" he asked seriously.

Joanne blinked, surrendering. "No, this was a case of being a little too eager to please I think. She gave up a lot to come here for this job."

"She did?" Carnes asked. "I'm afraid I don't know that much about her yet."

Smiling, Joanne whispered near his ear, not adverse to priming the pot.
"Well, maybe you should learn a thing or two.." she encouraged.
"She reminds me a lot, of you." Then she turned for the hospital with one long appraising look at little Joey Collins by the fireplace, and left.

Paul nodded his head matter of factly. "Right. Learn about your coworkers.
Always a good thing. Why do I always keep forgetting that?" he self chided.

-
The air was brisk but still clear and sunny in the next mountain valley over from the Appalchian Center. Johnny Gage pulled his rover, full of the gang's camping gear, up to Tag number 70 that was located in a ravine thick with pine and beech trees. A lazy heat made them all sweat in their winter coats.

"Man. Yep, Indian summer for sure." commented Chet as he got out of the jeep. "Feel this heat. It's making even my skin red."

Gage just glared at him, already tired of Kelly's jokes about his nationality.

Cap said, "Okay, fellas. The faster we get the tents up, the faster we can go exploring to find the best places to put our deer stands."

Roy smiled, pulling off a ski cap that he didn't need. "Isn't it nice that the park extended the hunt this year because of over population?
I can't see us missing our buck tag. Can you?"

"Not when I'm around." said Johnny. "I always get my meat."

"What chick scores are you talking about there, ah, Johnny?"
Chet asked, rubbing his chin mischieviously, baiting Gage.

"Don't be crude." Johnny retorted.

Kelly chuckled. "I wasn't trying to be. But boy, those two park ranger chicks were mighty fine looking steaks to me. I think I'm gonna save me some Worchestershire."

The others laughed.

"Ah, yes, Johnny Gage's legendary Native American deer tracking skills."
Kelly said grandly, kicking a foot through the old ashes and coals in the fire ring on the beach by the brook near them. "But we won't need them this weekend, Johnny. Technology's beating you out this time." And he pulled out a little brown bottle with a white label on it from his jacket's pocket.

Cap made a face. "Oh, *faughh* Is that what I've been smelling all the way from California?"

Mike Stoker looked up in disgust from the mountain map he had laid out on a sun warmed boulder. "Yep. Pure doe-in-estrus. Unmistakable odor."

"What, are you a buck or something?" Chet complained at him.

"No, but I am allergy free, unlike most of the rest of you, except maybe Cap."
replied Stoker. "Nothing wrong with this nose."

Hank was frank.
"Oh, I don't care what that stuff is! Chet, you go bury that pee somewhere far from where we're pitching our tents, is that understood? I came here not only for some good venison steaks eventually, but for some wonderful smog free air as well. I don't need some chemistry geek like you spoiling my vacation with the likes of that." he said, pointing to the vile little vile.

"Okay." Chet shrugged. "I'll save it all for myself. We'll see who gets the first fletch draw. And it's gonna be me. A ten pointer for sure."

"I know I'm not dumb enough to pour urine all over myself like perfume. I'm not a lure. I'm a dignified human being." said Marco Lopez.

The others laughed.

"Come on, I'm getting hungry guys." said Cap. "Let's get a fire going enough to get some chow on. Looks like it's gonna be a beautiful day." he said admiring the golden glow of fall leaves in the glade around them.

Contentedly, the gang made deer camp, leaving their ranger given radio sitting on top of the hood of the rover where they could listen to it to keep an ear out for other hunters in their area.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Hallie Green in a black firefighter uniform.

Photo: Ted Rorchek frowning in dismay.

Photo: Chris Rorchek making a point.

Photo: Chief Joe Rorchek in a black fire uniform jacket.

Photo: The airport station gang at breakfast.

Photo: The airport station gang playing backgammon.

Photo: Park Ranger Paramedic Captain Paul Carnes.

Photo: Joey Collins, a little boy in close up.

Photo: Dr. Joanne Almstedt, in a white lab coat close.

Photo: Deer camp with tents and a campfire.

Photo: Chet Kelly looking geeky in hiker clothes.

Photo: A campfire with coffee on the grill.

Photo: Johnny Gage's rover by a fall colors beach.

*
Subject: Off Target From: patti k () Sent: Thu 12/18/08 6:43 PM It was almost nightfall and peace reigned over the creek valley location where the gang had outfitted their deer camp. The lazy heat of the day was fleeing, leaving behind the autumn crispness that had been readily apparent among the yellowing beech trees surrounding their two picketted, white canvas tents.

Thwock! came an echoing sound, reverberating around the open-to-the-air, rustic creekbed.

On an improvised hammock, Captain Stanley smiled.
"That's what? Eight in a row?" he called out to Chet, who had just released a fletched arrow from his beefed up compound bow.

"Nine." Kelly shouted back, still eyeing up the target thirty yards away. It was nearly invisible in the shadows but he wasn't even squinting to see it. "I'm simply perfect now, man. I told you that before we left home. Remember?"

"I can't forget it." Cap celebrated. "That's why we planned this trip in the first place. Guaranteed deer meat. And here we come! I'm awfully glad it's gonna be venison on the menu, and not fish this time." he quipped.

Irked by the reminder of the rejected Santa Rose county trout memory, Johnny Gage looked up from the stream where he was washing the last of their dinner dishes out with water and beach sand. "Are they ALL solid hits in the vitals?" Gage finally asked the two of them. Inwardly, he admitted a frightening thought. ::I can't even see the deer's cardboard outline anymore in this fading light and I'm much, much closer to it than Chet is.:: he realized mentally.

Thwock! came another deciding impact sound of an arrow straight on target. "Yep. Every one.... And that makes ten. And counting..." Kelly gloated, still baiting Gage. He sighed deeply, invigorated. "Care to go six against six, Johnny boy?" he finally trickled.

Johnny was instantly on his feet. He dropped the empty, bottom burned pork and beans pan onto the sandbar half full with creek water, to soak. "You're on. That arm's of yours has got to be getting tired out by now."

Mike Stoker chuckled from where he was snoozing in his steaming shoes near the roaring campfire. He lifted his head from a convenient pillow log. "On an engine firefighter? Johnny, are you for real?
One puny little bow's nothing compared to hours working with a live fire hose. You and Roy work far too many medical calls, so we know you don't have the same forearm muscles we do. Chet's gonna Robin Hood the h*ll out of you, Gage. Watch out." he grinned.

"In ..his.... dreams.." said Johnny, scoffing good naturedly.

"Or maybe his." said Roy, pointing over to his left at another shadow.

Everybody looked in that direction.

Next to DeSoto, Marco snored loudly, obliviously content, with a very full stomach. He was slumped limply, head backwards, in a camp lounge chair surrounded by four empty beer cans littering the ground around his feet.

Roy just grinned at Lopez, lightbulbing an idea. "Tell you what. The winner doesn't have to carry Marco here to his sleeping bag.." he challenged.

"You're on.." said both Kelly and Gage. The two camouflaged tan and orange bedecked firemen friends spat on their hands and they eagerly shook on it.

Cap's support of Chet was unwavering. "Oh, this is gonna be good."
he said, lifting up his hunter's cap so he could watch Johnny and Chet toe a line on the beach next to the burbling ice-water creek. They squared off shoulder to shoulder in front of the whitetail buck target that was already festooned with Chet's bright chartreuse feathered arrows.

Quickly, Chet froze in place to knock off another arrow into the air.

Gage's recollection gave him an unwilling instant replay. In slow mo. ::Raised the bow, aimed and shot. In three seconds? Tops?! Holy cow!..:: Johnny's mind beleaguered in nagging analysis.

Thwock! And the card target deer's ribs behind the elbow sprouted a new limb, pock cratered at the impact point. The arrow vibrated there for a long time.

Gage tried not to let the noise of it distract him. Nor the enthusiastic cheers of Cap, which followed the perfect "kill" Chet had once again executed. --(Sorry, pun. So sue me. :P :)

Kneeling, Johnny got out his simple elegant pine recurve bow, a traditional one, steeped with eagle feathers and just a clean line of antelope leather for an arrow notch. Intricate colorful beadwork decorated its entire length as he drew out the rest of it from its protective, moth eaten, ratty old Seminole blanket.

Mike Stoker whistled appreciatively at it. "You guys got the same poundage?"
he asked, eyeing up its size.

"Doesn't matter." Johnny shot back. "This is all about skill. Right, Chet?"

"If you say so." Kelly smirked, coughing smugly as he fitted another arrow to his bow sights on his thoroughly modern fiberglass bow.

"Just shut up and draw." Johnny said, gritting his teeth in fully aroused competitiveness.

"You first." Kelly sniffed, unconcerned at Johnny's sharpness.

"Okay.. Stand aside then." Johnny sighed dangerously.

Chet just smiled.

Gage's eye never wavered from the low shoulder area he felt in the darkness on the cutout. He cocked his arm back, hugging his now taut rawhide gut bowstring and then he silently cheek kissed his first chosen falcon feathered arrow. With his target clearly burned into his mind,
Johnny released it smoothly with a gentle creak of leather after his eyes closed.

Away it flew.

Everybody froze, waiting for an impact.
The answering quiet was overwhelming.

Cap started laughing, aiming a flashlight into the trees. "I don't see it there.
Did any of you guys see that one hit at all?" he teased into the new silence.

Gage's eyes flew open and his mouth flopped open. "What?"

Roy didn't giggle. "Why don't you try that again, junior. You haven't had a chance to warm up yet like Chet did before he started practicing."

"Yeah.. uh, I think I will." Gage stammered, still utterly surprised that his sure "feel" didn't match the outcome that he knew he had normally experienced, all of his life. "I..uh, m- missed? Are you sure?" he whispered.

Chet was gentlemanly enough not to jab a man when he was down. "No biggie,
Gage. Don't worry. I'll help ya look for that one afterwards. Cap, can you turn off that flashlight so our eyes can get readjusted again?"

"Oh, yeah, right. Sorry." Hank replied, shutting off the torch. The bright starry night returned in an eerily long blue twilight that they weren't familiar with at all. "Wow, the air's actually still glowing here. Weird."

"It's the latitude. Slower sunsets." Stoker supplied, ever accurate.

A minute later, while they all patiently waited, Johnny complained. "Sorry, my eyes are still buzzing, guys." he said, wiping away sweat as he tried to concentrate on the target he knew was still somewhere in the darkness. But his mind's eye seem to fail him once again.

Cap chuckled. "You should lay off the beer then. You're not very big in size, pal.
Maybe the one you had's getting to you." he suggested reasonably. "You did drive the rover all day long."

"I'm fine." he hissed. "See?" he told him, holding up a very steady hand. "Maybe I'm just not concentrating enough yet."

Chet smirked. "Gage, not concentrating? Quick! Somebody nick a finger on a knife or something. The paramedic in him'll kick in and refocus all those marvelous Indian instincts he claims he's got after he sees some blood."

"Ha. Ha. Think you're clever?" Johnny said, getting mad. His eyes glimmered fiercely as he fought down a shallow retort. Carefully, he held his breath on the next arrow as he lined up and pulled it back into full tension.

Seconds whispered by..

Then Gage let it go firmly, his bowstring singing.

The gang held bated breath, but only the wind replied back.
They fell mute. Completely. But then Chet tried to save the moment.

Kelly's face lit up in good humor and he said. "Hey, Johnny. Watch this."
he remarked being intentionally silly. And he turned his back to the target. Reaching out behind him, he let go of his notched arrow one handed,
without looking.

Thwock! came the loud, answering strike.

"Oh wow, that one hit?!" Chet gaped.

The whole gang, except Marco and Gage surged forward to check out the target in the trees with shocked sudden hoots and whistles of admiration.

Johnny was stunned and his mouth reflected it and the truth of what his eyes were telling him.

The flickering torchlight soon announced the others' return back into the campsite.

Cap proudly held up the deer silhouette. Twelve arrows, all Chet's, stabbed deeply into the blue and red paper oval that designated the heart and lungs on the target. "Nice, Chet! That last one was a heart shot for sure. See?"
Hank pointed, fingering the newest arrow shot through the tiny red circle on the paper.

Gage, disturbed, leaned on his slack bow, hardly moving. "Where're my shots? Holy cow, man. What happened to MY arrows?"

The others' glee washed away into sudden seriousness when they realized that Gage was truly distraught. Mike Stoker solemnly went over to the dark haired paramedic. "Here they are. I found them in the grass about twenty feet past the target." he said uncomfortably. "Their shafts aren't broken or splintered. And I checked the tips. They're not even bent.." he tried to smile. "Probably because the ground's not frozen yet."

Johnny took them from his hand slowly, not looking at anybody. "What the h*ll?" he asked numbly, looking at his bow arm and hand, too.

Cap replied, soothingly. "Maybe you're just tired, pal. Nothing wrong with that. We did just drive 1,100 miles in one straight shot today. Tell you what, we'll rematch in the morning. And as for the prize problem here, I'll take Marco in myself." he said. Hank turned and hefted up the sleeping, mildly exhausted but occasionally beer belching Lopez over a shoulder. "I'll leave an empty coffee can next to him so he doesn't have to get up to go later.." Gage answered back, thinking ahead.

Hank waved his free hand in acknowledgement. "That's a good plan. Why don't you go get some sleep and stop worrying about the match?" he suggested as he strode away with Lopez draped over him. "It's just all in good fun."

Mike and Chet were still talking animatedly about how easily Chet had shot out two quivers' worth of arrows over by the fire, when Roy joined his partner by the water's edge in the dark. Soon, both of Squad 51's men watched the excited pair leave for the sleeping tent as they decided to go in to play some cards by lantern light.

Sighing, DeSoto stooped and picked up the unfinished dishes one by one to store them until morning. "Hey, Johnny. You turning in, too? I'm thinking about going early before all this newly chilled air starts to annoy me again."

"Yeah. I'll ...... be there in a sec." he said, putting away his bow and quiver of handmade arrows into its snug bundle once more. He moved slowly while packing it away. Then he looked up, still holding the wrap in his lap thoughtfully.
"Why did I miss today, Roy? I've never missed with my bow while hunting before. Not for years and years now." he wondered, still troubled.

Roy squatted by his side, thinking for long moments. When he spoke it was softly, with words well thought out. "Maybe it was because that deer target wasn't any kind of real food, don't you think? It was all just pretend. Pretty dumb shooting something made out of paper, if you ask me."

Johnny scoffed, making a belligerent noise.

Roy countered him instantly. "Hey. I'm serious here. I'm just trying to make you feel better."

Gage settled, studying his hands, while he flexed them sadly.

"Have faith in yourself. I know I do. You'll still be flawless for the real deal. I can't see why not. You never haven't been that way before." Roy winked, teasing, trying to make light of the whole ball of wax.

Gage didn't say anything and he just watched the moonlit water flowing by them, over the rocks, at their feet.

Roy touched his arm. "Hey. This isn't the end of the world. You're firmly grounded in reality, Johnny. Not in fantasy. I know at least that much about you."

"Think so?" Johnny asked him seriously.

"Well, yeah. Isn't that why your other deer hunting trips went well for you while you were growing up on the reservation?"

"I sure hope it was. A few minutes ago really freaked me out, man." Gage whispered. "Kelly actually shot rings around me. Just like Stoker said he would. And he's not even Native American."

"I won't tell anyone."

"Thanks." came Gage's sarcastic reply. "You're all heart."

"Listen. You don't have to hold that contest in the morning like the others still want to do. Just say you're conserving your strength or something." Roy suggested.

"Yeah, right. They'll really buy into that." he sniffed. "Especially Kelly." Johnny mused miserably. Then he started smiling. "I can see it now. Chet'll gloat so much he won't eat until his pancakes get ice cold."

"The simple truth outs, Johnny. Can't steer wrong sharing that kind of thing." Roy insisted.

"Oh, yes I can." said Gage, remembering the last time he and Roy had held discussions about honesty and people. His light expression disappeared and he irritatedly stopped a sudden yawn he found he was fighting off.

Roy saw that his eyes were heavy with fatigue.

Then a fall wind picked up.

DeSoto coughed and finally shivered at the night. "Brrrr, man! I HATE the idea being in a state with four seasons." he sighed and then he startled when he saw his breath appear in front of his face. "Oh, geez," he said, frightening himself. Then he sighed again. "Suit yourself. I'm staying out of it just the same. Away from this cold and your contest willies." Roy said as he started back to the main tent. He stopped himself, thinking about safety. "Oh, uh, wait a minute. You want me to put out the campfire before I go to bed?"

"Nah, I'll do it later." Gage half smiled. "I wanna sharpen all my arrow tips for a while."

Roy chuckled. "Go get 'em. Heh." He meant more than just arrows.

Moments later, DeSoto left him alone, for the warmed up sleeping tent.

--------------------------------------------------------

Photo: The gang in street clothes in the woods, at night.

Photo: A tent surrounded by bow hunting gear.

Photo: Chet, bow hunting in full moss camouflage.

Photo: A cardboard deer target, showing vital areas in red and white.

Photo: Gage, looking dumbfounded, in a tan shirt, outside.

Photo: A traditional Seminole Indian bow, in close up.

Photo: Two people sleeping in and out of a pup tent outside.

*
Subject: The Flow of Life.
From: patti k () Sent: Sun 12/21/08 1:31 AM Dawn came early to the woods. The sun was bright as it rose, but along with it, came the cold.

Chet shifted on his deer stand, looking at Johnny.
"Are you sure this is where the game trail leads?
I'm not seeing any signs of horn or fur appearing here."

Gage didn't move from his relaxed, unmoving, ready crouch on a branch. "That's antlers and hides, Mr. Supposedly Expert Shooter. And yes, this is the right place. They all just have to come through here looking for water and they're gonna want to get at the cliff over there to lick the mineral salts out of that clay bank."

"I don't see any footprints here." Chet said, unconvinced.

"There's a big buck print beneath our tree. Can't you see it? A four year old. It's pressed right down there into the sand, plain as day."
Johnny insisted, pointing. "Look again." Then Johnny saw that he wasn't looking, only fidgetting, so Gage grabbed Kelly's face in two hands and pointed his nose downwards. "Try a little harder." Johnny groused.

Kelly looked in vain, sighing like a steam engine.
"The only thing plain as day to me is that the fact that the two of us have been freezing our *ss*s off for hours, apparently for nothing. I'm beginning to think that Roy had the right idea by staying bundled up in his sleeping bag next to a roaring campfire." Kelly shivered, blowing on his camouflaged hands to warm them.
"I'm hungry."

"What, didn't you like your pancakes?" Gage chuckled.

"Very funny. They were frozen."

Johnny decided not to tell him the reason why. He handed Chet his thermos of hot coffee to sip. "If you want to eat like a king, you just have to be patient." Gage said reasonably.

"I AM gonna be a patient, when I freeze to death by noon."
Kelly whispered, shivering. "Then you and Roy are gonna have to call in those park rangers to fly me outta here as a hypothermia case."
Chet told him.

But Johnny wasn't paying any attention to him. His eye was on a subtle movement in the brush below. "Chet, shh." he cautioned. He held up a fast, quieting set of fingers. "For a moment."

"What? Am I complaining too much? Well, it's the truth." Kelly said.

"ShhHHhh. Look!"

"Where?" Kelly sniffed.

"Down there.." Johnny suggested sarcastically. "It's him."

"Who?"

"Would you just shush?" Gage whispered, growing agitated.
"Our ticket outta these icy woods. It's our tag. And he's big. A ten pointer for sure." Johnny stage whispered.

"...ohHHhh.... oo. Ooo." Chet grunted, getting excited. He pulled his huge complicated compound bow to his shoulder to start eyeing up his bowstring sights.

"Not yet.." Johnny said through gritted teeth, lowering it with a shove. "He's still too far away.."

"Says who?" Chet told him. "I can hit an acorn at ninety paces. Just what do you think last night proved, huh? I can bag him just f--"

Gage glared at Kelly and grabbed his shoulders swiftly in a partially angry, noise stifling warning. "We're not gonna stuff anything, including our mouths, if you don't start clamming up! He's almost within hearing range.." he hissed back. He froze his lips into stealth mode as he drew out his own bow and fitted an arrow to it.

Amazingly, Kelly stayed mute, following suit, trying to birdeye the slow moving buck he still couldn't see.

A minute past. Then two. Johnny remained calm and collected,
frozen solid, with the bowstring held at full tension.

*Snort* came a noise from below as the buck froze to scout the traces of buck lure Chet had left on the leaf littered ground nearby for a second, before he began to step nearer,
foot by foot, to the strongest signs of spilled scent.

Chet finally saw the outline. "There you are. Say bye bye, Bambi."
he whispered and released his shot.

"NO!" Gage hollered, quickly trying to deflect the arrow with a shove of his elbow.

But he was too late.
The sick thud of a sluggish arrow hitting just shoulder bone echoed around the glade before the shocked, superficially impaled buck leaped up and began to flee away from them in a rush of dried leaves and breaking branches.

"What did you do that for?" Chet asked as he watched Gage suddenly deploy a rope to rappel down to the ground after shouldering his bow and quiver. "I got him." he insisted.

Gage landed on the ground solidly and let go of the rope.
"You just wounded him, Chet! And now he's suffering. Horribly."
he snapped. "Never, EVER take a shot on moving game. That's totally, totally cruel. Those are never sure kill!"

Kelly stopped an equally heated comeback, suddenly uncertain. "What?"

Johnny pointed towards the thicket into which the buck had fled with an irritated gesture as he swiftly began to track blood sign to follow him. "Just listen to what you did.." he raged.

Painful gasps and bleats began to fill the woods, slowly growing quieter as the distance grew between the running, panicking whitetail deer and his two firemen hunters. But that didn't lessen their impact on Kelly.

Chet blanched and he almost dropped his bow as he quickly shimmeyed down out of the deer stand to join Johnny. He felt sick to his stomach.
"I didn't know, Johnny. I didn't think--"

"That's right you didn't think! A cardboard cutout's a far cry from a living, breathing, feeling target." he said jogging after the disheveled trail of red droplets on the leaves ahead of him. "You need to be a lot closer to any large game to get a tip down to vitals cleanly. Now let's get after that poor buck and end it for him just as fast as we can." Gage said turning his anger into constructive criticism.

Chet hurried after him, cowed.

Four minutes later, Johnny spied the bleating buck just as he was failing to climb the creekbank on the opposite side of the small valley because of his crippling shoulder injury.

Gage could see the bright neon yellow feathers and three quarters of Chet's arrow still sticking out of the deer's quivering hide and muscle.

He swiftly knelt twenty yards away and loosed a solid arrow that caught the buck squarely in the white hair of its breast. A fast trickle of red began to course down as the buck shuddered on four shaky legs, slowly turning his head, ears, and frightened eyes to regard his pursuers in surprise.

But seconds later, the deer dropped like a stone from Gage's definitive shot, ....dead.

Gage hurried over to the fallen buck to make sure the kill was over,
and it was. Chet followed more slowly, still stunned by what he had learned, saw and felt right then.

"But that's just my arrow." Chet said, pointing to the yellow shaft embedded in the deer's shoulder. Its feathers were glowing brightly in the dawn's light on the edge of the field where they stood. "I don't understand." he whispered. "Where's yours? I don't see--"

"That's because mine went clear through both lungs, the heart, and out the other side, Chet." he hissed, holding up the bloody whole arrow of his own that he had just retrieved from deep in the still soft dirt a few feet beyond the buck's carcass. "Like it was supposed to have done with yours in the first place!"

Kelly actually flinched, and suddenly Gage bit his own lip in mental apology when a memory flashed back of his own first failed kill when he was a boy. His tribal mentor hadn't reacted as violently to his own lack of a kill mistake to the same degree as what Johnny had just done to Chet a short minute ago.

"I'm sorry, Johnny. Really, truly. I am. I never wanted the deer to suffer.
You know that." Kelly told him quietly, his face still stricken. "I sure do, too, even more than you can possibly know right now." he said, getting vehement in his shock at his own, thoughtless error. His eyes were bright with tears.

Gage sighed impatiently, with open sympathy, eager to get the past five minutes out of his mind forever. "Come on. Let's get him dressed out for our packs."

Kelly knelt and placed a hand on the buck's still steaming, soft flank, being respectful. Gage saw that even though Kelly was reluctant to retrieve his arrow back, his mind was mentally working.

Johnny nodded, answering Chet's unspoken question. "Yes,
your shot would have been as good as mine if you had been as close as I was when I took him down. This is at the right angle for a solid hit. It was only lack of force that broke the tip off at bone level."

Chet just nodded, fighting strong emotions. But then he said,
"Let's not take the rack, Johnny. Not after that. It just doesn't seem right." Kelly told him, changing the subject.

Johnny afforded him a slight smile. "Okay. Just our food."
Then he remembered another far away memory of his first game hunt that had gone badly, so he added. "Let's build a cairn, too, so we can leave the antlers behind. I'll say a few prayers as a thank you."

"So will I." Kelly added quickly, even though he wasn't a very religious man, on any facet.

Gage bent then and freed up Chet's arrow for him from where it was buried. He stood and handed the shattered shaft back to Kelly with strong shades of sympathy.
Johnny said. "We are part of a Circle. Never forget that we're givers, too."

"And takers." Kelly agreed, understanding at last.

Photo: A closeup of a deer print in sand.

Animation: A standing buck shaking its head.

Photo: Chet taking aim with a compound bow.

Photo: A buck down in a field at dawn, arrow shot.

Photo: Johnny Gage smiling in a fall jacket in a sea of fall grass.

Photo: Chet Kelly smiling in fishing clothes on a porch.

*
From: patti k () Sent: Fri 12/26/08 4:38 AM Subject: Pep Talk Cap was dozing in a camp chair, with the glowing heat of the fire warming his face, when a heavy thunk of a tarp wrapped deer quarter dropped on the ground in front of him. He started, jerking out of somnolence. "What was that?" he mumbled sleepily, drowsy from the fresh air.

"Dinner." Johnny grinned. "And for many nights to come, too."

Roy DeSoto began chuckling. "That was fast." he said,
looking at his watch.

Kelly was lifting up his winter jacket so the intense radiant heat of the fire could soak into his bones. He sighed with utter relief and blew on his hands to warm them."Not fast enough for me." he groused. "Oh, this feels good. Never thought I'd see the day where I actually wanted to see a fire."

Mike Stoker laughed from where he was checking out the size of the buck quarters in the packs Kelly and Cap had taken off with appreciative hands. "You're forgetting your boyhood days again."

"Who wouldn't?" Chet countered, straight faced.

"Me." said Johnny, grinning from ear to ear. "I kind of like remembering old times. And it just gets better when you're grown up because you can see those things all over again from a new perspective. You can marvel at what you've learned well since then." he said, thinking back on that fateful first deer hunt.

"Not so fun grown up either." Kelly said. "I thought I had things nailed down." he said, talking about his deer hunt he hadn't completed well with a cowed chagrin. His eyes avoided the required deer tag tied around the buck's ear with his name on it, where the front quarters and head lay on the grass at their feet. The whitetail's eyes were still open, wide with surprise.

Johnny noticed, and covered the buck's head.
"You did fine. The deer's not worried about anything anymore,
so get over it. We had to eat." Gage told him matter of factly.

Marco was already sawing away on a haunch, slicing off six steaks to grill on the fire. "Ooo, venison! Do you know how long I've dreamed of getting some fresh?"

"About as long as I have." Chet said, eyeing up the meat sadly. "I don't think I want to have any for the rest of our breakfast today." he sighed.

Roy eyed up Kelly. "Aw, come on. It wasn't that bad."

"Yes it was. And it wasn't pretty." Kelly frowned.

Cap turned to Gage."What happened?"

Johnny held up a dismissing hand. "A shallow arrow. But we took care of it as fast as possible."

"Oooo." Hank winced in sympathy.

Chet cringed and rubbed his face again, turning back to the fire away from them.

Johnny looked up.
"It wasn't long. Maybe,.. five minutes or so that way." he thought back. "Then we dropped him. He was a dead buck standing when I got to him." Johnny shared. "Chalk it up as one for experience."
Gage said, looking at Chet gently. "Chet, if it's any comfort, my first buck was alone for hours and died even worse because we couldn't find his blood sign on the ground. He had fled too fast."

Kelly blinked as he turned back to the others after wiping his face with a damp towel. "Where'd you get him?"

It was Gage's turn to look uncomfortable."Gut shot, near the brisket. In a non-vitals spot. And my shaman guide didn't get to finish the job before he died. I felt bad for a week. There was no way I was going to eat something then that I had tortured."

"Unintentionally." Roy countered.

A silence reigned where only the fire talked.

But then Lopez filled the air with confidence.
"Enough downer talk guys, aren't we all hungry?" Marco butted in, eagerly spicing up and laying ample venison onto his grill laid over the fire. "So let's show some appreciation for this deer's sacrifice and dive in with gusto.
My mama says that that's the best way to show your food the honor it deserves for giving up its life to you."

"Here. Here." said Mike Stoker whistling appreciatively. But then he frowned.
"Hey, where the rack?" the fire engineer asked, still picking through the tarp and rope covered meat bundles in a search for it. "It's sure gonna look good hanging up in Cap's den.." he grinned.

Chet looked up. "Uh, Stoker. We left it back in the woods. Because I.
uh.." he broke off.

Cap touched Chet on the shoulder. "And a nice tribute, too. Now the mice can get the minerals they're gonna need by gnawing on them all winter long."

"Dust to dust." Marco agreed.

"Salt to the earth.." Gage shared, too. "Aw, come on, Chet. Let's have a feast.
There's nothing better. And I know that now." he said, gesturing at the fragrant,
mouthwatering steaks beginning to pop on the grill as Marco turned them over and over until they were deep brown and savory. "It'd be a shame if we had to waste meat. The five of us can't eat all of it by ourselves. Our freezers aren't big enough."

"Well.." said Kelly, thinking about it reluctantly. Then the perfumey smell of heady tender filet mignon made up Chet's mind. "Okay, since you put it that way."

Lopez chuckled. "I'll give you both ribeyes. How's that? They'll be done in a few minutes." he said, wiping nonexistent dirt off of his hands on the apron he had donned.

Kelly joined him and crouched by the fire to pick up a spatula.
"I'll help you cook." he said, his mouth finally watering.

Gage clapped his hands together now that they were warm."I'll go find us some fresh sage. Back in a minute." he said. Then he jogged out into the frosty meadow outside of camp, to find some.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Deer hunters kneeling over a cooking fire in a pine wood.

Photo: A cook tenderizing venison steaks.

Photo: Venison jerky smoked on a grill at night.

Photo: Johnny Gage in a paisley shirt, grinning.

Photo: Roy talking animatedly in a white shirt.

Photo: Broiled venison filets with mushrooms presented on a plate with steamed asparagus spears, wild rice pilaf and whole cherries for garnish.

*
Sent: Sun 12/28/08 5:39 AM From: "Patti K" Subject: The Dark Side Of Nature

After their gourmet gorge, the gang decided to take a collective nap before heading into town to refrigerate their whitetail catch at the butcher's for the rest of the week.

They had no idea how long they had been asleep when an unearthly deafening yowl sounded right next to their sleeping tent.

Johnny was up like a shot and he gave out a tremendous blood curdling yell and smacked the tent wall hard with two fists. "Yiii !
Get out of here! Yii ahhhhhhHHH Ho!! " he shouted angrily.

A crashing recoil of something large bounded backwards with another screeching, raspy wail that turned into an angry spate of hisses.

The rest of 51's shot bolt upright.

"Is that a bear?!" Chet peeped fearfully, the first to regain a voice as he struggled to get out of his tangled sleeping bag. He finally kicked it aside in a partial panic and sank down into a protective crouch.

Johnny grabbed his bow that he had brought inside to protect its bead and leatherwork from forming ice. "No. Too small. Geez, that sounded like a puma. Everybody, stay inside and stay quiet! I'm gonna see if it's really chased off." he ordered, snatching his quiver up and putting it on over his shoulder. Another hand made sure an axe handle was threaded through a belt loop in back of his pants.

He crawled over Roy in his sleeping bag, facing the wide open entrance to their tent, warily.

"Need any help?" DeSoto offered weakily, scared.

Gage was firm.
"Nope. The rest of you are out of your element. Only I can handle a stalking cougar. I know how it'll react and how to fight one." Seconds later, he had slipped outside into the cold sunlight. His eyes started immediately searching the tree canopy above them as he readied an arrow to his bowstring.

But nothing leaped down on him in a fury of fur, teeth and claws.

Gentle orange leaves whispered in mockery at him with rustling movement.

Johnny scanned the area around them once again, tensely.

But the challenge did not repeat itself from a hungry throat.

Satisfied some distance had been won, Johnny retied the tent flaps shut with nimble fingers behind him.

Soon, the gang heard a load of wood being dumped onto the feeble smelling campfire to build it up swiftly to bonfire proportions.

"What didn't we do? What did we do wrong?!" Chet panicked,
picking up a backpack rack to heft as a shield and club.

Marco hefted up a familar feeling knife and waited by the tent flap through which Johnny had disappeared. Lopez was still in shock from the close encounter. "There are ..*gulp* ...pumas in New York?"

"After that?!" Chet gestured sarcastically at the tent wall. "It certainly wasn't an educational recording for our benefit, pally."

Stoker added more. "Those park rangers probably thought there weren't any left. Or we would have been notified of potential sightings near our camp."

"Nobody's perfect." said Roy.

Belated Marco sputtered.
"The deer! Oh Madre Di-- It's got to be after the meat!" Lopez said, curling his goose pimpled palms around his elbows.

Chet was angry and puzzled at the same time.
"I didn't think we needed to tree hang anything this time of year.
Bears are hibernating now according to this book." said Kelly,
waving a tattered, well dog-eared manual in the air in between them.

"Just how old is that book?" Stoker wanted to know.

DeSoto leaned forward, slowly.
"Uh,... 19--" he squinted myopically at it through the dirt on its cover. "--65." Roy whispered.

"Oh, brilliant." snarled Kelly. "Who brought this one?"

Nobody admitted to it.

Mike said. "That's probably outdated animal information."

Chet ignored the analyses wholeheartedly. "No sh*t, Sherlock.
We wanted a wilderness vacation? Well, we got it. This is another eye opening side of nature, guys. At its best." he murmured, his voice a mix of fright and frustration. "We're the top of the food chain under seige by something else that thinks IT is."

Hank immediately shushed everybody, listening for further sounds outside. The gang froze for a full half minute, fighting to control their ragged breathing. "Johnny? Are you all right?" Stanley asked, reaching for the ranger radio he was wearing to start a call for help.

But just the wind and more silence reigned as Johnny played cat to another hidden cat.

Then Gage reassured his crewmates. "I'm only being like a mouse to track him.
His prints are all over the place, but our deer meat hasn't been mauled yet.
There are no claw marks on any of the tarps." he whispered to them. "So far so good."

The others finally saw Johnny's shadow and the outline of weapons on the tent wall silhouetted by the sun, guarding them.

"How about all of us making a break for the rover?" Chet asked.

"Stay put. If we try to run, it'll give chase right after us, if it's still nearby." Johnny replied.

"Shall we call in?" Hank asked him.

Gage didn't hesitate.
"Yes. Cougars usually don't hunt during the day. There's something wrong with this one if it's scavenging deer camps like this in broad daylight."

Stanley sighed. "Too bad we didn't think to bring a gun for protection." he murmured thoughtfully.

"We're not that kind of hunter." DeSoto told him.

"Let's better hope we're not its kind of prey.." Stanley glared right back at him.

"...just t-terrific..." Chet whimpered, moving away from the thin canvas wall.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A snarling cougar's face.

Photo: A leaping cougar off a rock.

Photo: An open tent with sleepers in it.

Photo: Roy, looking scared.

Audio: An enraged cougar yowling.

************************************************** Subject: Yin and Yang From: patti k () Sent: Mon 12/29/08 2:33 AM Johnny Gage crept around the corner of the tent, cursing the angled setting sunlight now blinding him in half of his field of vision.
::Why didn't I grab a hat when I came out here?:: he thought angrily,
scared. ::Because you wanted to see your surroundings as fast as possible, that's why.:: his reasoning side argued instantly.

Another angry, long drawn yowl erupted in the same beech grove as the gang just yards away. It sliced through the noisy birdsong, silencing it as it echoed loudly around the valley's rocks.
Gage startled and almost dropped his bow. He whirled again in place, facing every direction for only a moment as he slowly backed up towards the growing campfire. He stopped only when the heat of it made his hair sizzle on his jacket's collar.

"Gage?" came Hank's tense question.

"Shhh! I've got my back protected. Don't utter another peep!
You're vulnerable!" Johnny hissed at him.

Hank and the others instantly hushed.

Snapping twigs to the north popped as something not so stealthy, circled just beyond the light of the fire under the trees.

Then things grew quiet and another tense wait began; a bizarre standoff between an unseen predator and the thinly sheltered firemen.

All too soon, darkness began to fall.

Johnny shifted as a cramp took his leg. Right then, a stick snapped to his right. He uptook the axe from his belt and headed a few feet into that direction brandishing a burning brand and moving forward at his fullest height. "Hii Ya...! Get outta here!!"
he yelled at the top of his lungs, hoping that his human voice would add to his deterent. "Go!!" he shouted into the black under the trees.

He was just turning when a soft plop of falling earth alerted him.

With a scream the cougar launched itself from a tall rock at Johnny.

That was the last thing he remembered when a hard jolt knocked him backwards into a bush from a new quarter.

Gage yelped and scrambled to his feet, raising the axe over his head, but then he saw what had struck him in that glancing blow.

It was a mule! He watched dumbstruck as the cat turned to face its new surprise attacker who was charging at it in pure equine fury.

With a bray of rage, the fully saddled half horse snatched the puma up by the tail and began to shake it like a ragdoll through the air in her teeth.
Then she began to pummel it with deadly hooves and powerful jaws to push away gripping, punishing claws.

At the top of one gory arch, a concussive shot burst through the air in a flame of light and impacted the puma's spine just behind the skull. The cat went limp and ceased to struggle as it fell once more beneath the angry mule's trampling feet.

A woman's voice announced itself. "Jodi! Back, back, back..Good girl.
Now back.." came an order. "We got it.."

Snorting loudly and still braying in fury, the flattened eared bay mule mare gave one last kick to the dead cougar and ansed nervously away to rejoin a new female park ranger bearing a silver shield on her jacket's breast pocket.

A second male voice shouted from the back of a horse in the darkness. "Morgan, any injuries?!"

"I'll check."
Pilot Deputy Park Ranger Morgan Wainwright quickly tied off Jodi the mule to a tree near the fire and hurried over to Johnny as her partner checked the puma with a rifle of his own to make sure the gunshot had finished its job. "Mister, are you hurt? Did it get you at all?" asked the rugged freckled redhead.

Gage mumbled, coming out of a daze. He began to pat himself down with his hands weakily but then more quickly as relief set in. "Uh,.. no. I- I seem to be in one piece here. I'm not bleeding anywhere.." he said lamely. "...I don't think."

"You're not." she agreed, eyeing him up critically.

Cap and the others burst out of the tent. "Johnny! What the h*ll happened out here?"demanded Stanley. "I know help's here finally, at least."

Johnny regarded his crewmates numbly for a few seconds, but then he began to grin as he examined the details of the expert kill shot Ranger Wainwright had pulled off. "Cap, you're not gonna believe this...but.." Then he broke off, dismissing any attempt at an explanation. "I don't quite believe it myself just yet."

"Teamwork, Mr. Gage." said the man with a straight face. "She's one of the best mounted parkies we've got. Despite having a short wicked Long Ears there for a mount."

Morgan protested. "Hey, she's very sensitive. Call her Jodi, okay? That's her real name, isn't it sweetie.." she smooched at the mule.

Thib just rolled his light blue eyes and ran some fingers through his neat frosted blond hair. "Oh, sorry there, Ma'am." he tipped his ranger hat at the brown mule who shook her namesake ears at him ruefully.

Then he offered Johnny and the others his hand in welcome, one by one. "Hi, I'm Deputy Dwayne Thibideaux, call me Thib for short. And this is Deputy Pilot Morgan Wainwright. The two of us, well, we're assigned to patrol the park reserve during the hunting season for an added extra safety measure. We came as fast as we could when we heard your captain calling in a puma pin down."

Chet Kelly pushed up his eyebrows in a still pale face. "You mean big cats are regular in these parts?"

"Nope." said Ranger Thibideaux. "Yours was the first encounter we've seen in twelve years." he shared.

Mike Stoker smacked the useless NY guidebook against Kelly's chest.
"That sounds about right."

"Hey, that's not mine." Chet protested, pushing it away.

"Yes, it is. Your sister signed the inside back cover and dated it." Stoker said smoothly, not smiling.

Kelly cleared his throat subconsciously.

But the two rangers weren't listening, they were crouched with Johnny over the luckless cougar. "Oh, wow.." said Morgan. "Just look at his front foot, it's been crippled."

"I see it." said Dwayne.

"And he's really underweight. " added Wainwright.

Chet nudged Johnny's ribs and whispered sotto voce. "Did she mean that about you?" Gage just poked him back, ignoring him.

"Might have been by a car strike." guessed Thib. "This scarring's old. And the way the hair's been scraped off here looks like badly healed road rash."

"Okay, so we can rule out distemper or rabies." Morgan said.

"Yep." replied Dwayne.

"Lucky us." said Marco sarcastically. "No biggie. He was just going to eat us after eating our deer."

"Unlikely." said Gage and Morgan at the same time. They both connected eyes with each other, and grinned like a pair of witless idiots.

Morgan smiled at Johnny with interest. "You know cougars?"

"Yep." Gage grinned back, just as interested. "I treat cougar bait --er... joggers attacked by them all the time. And, I own a ranch in California in the mountains where..."

"...where cougars roam.." Morgan finished. "..So you battle them all the time in order to save your livestock."

"..horses actually.." Johnny corrected dreamily.

Beside him, Chet started gagging, breaking their sudden adolescent like fugue.

Cap clapped his hands together. "So what's next? Do we have to leave our campsite on a mandatory evacuation order or anything?"

"Nah, cougars are loners." said Thib. "And this one.." and he hefted up the rumpled cat by the scruff of its neck "..has been dealt with. We'll take it with us and do a necropsy to see what the old injuries really were."

"How about potential cubs?" Chet asked, thinking he was clever.

"It's a boy.." said Gage, leaning over to his ear.

"Okay, a male. How can you tell?" Kelly asked a little louder to drown him out, glancing down at the cat's exposed rear quarters.

"By the color of its fall coat." Johnny replied. "He's still really tawny for this time of year."

"Yeah," agreed Morgan. "Any queen would be almost totally gray by now."

"Thanks, guys. For saving our skins and all. That was a mighty rough half hour or so there." Hank said in gratitude.

"No sweat. But I'd ah, rope your deer up high just the same to keep off the shrews. They're kinda thick at this particular camping site of yours." Dwayne shared.

"Oh, uh, thanks. We'll do that." said Roy beginning to take care of that chore with a well tossed rope up into some branches.

Morgan raised her radio from her saddle pack to her mouth. "Base, this is 240 Robert. All's clear. One confirmed cougar, shot in self defense, no injuries among the hunters."

##Copy, Appalachian Central, out.## replied their park dispatcher.

Dwayne held out his hand to Cap. "Got your tag?"

"Hmm?" Stanley grunted, not understanding.

"Your buck, we can register it now for you." Thib clarified.

"Oh, oh, oh..." Hank said. "Uh, here. My men say this one was a ten pointer." he said, pulling off the wire from the deer's ear near them.

"Four years old." said Gage and Morgan at the same time as they examined the buck's tooth wear.

Chet groaned and he soon found he had to fend off their curious stares.
"Oh, nothing. Nothing." he said.

But their mutual set of smiles was starting to sicken him. A lot.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hours later, long after dusk, a strange bright flicker awoke Kelly out of his mentally screaming nightmares, full of claws and snarls.

The gang comforted him instantly, explaining what the multicolored light was.

Roy chuckled. "Don't worry. It's not a brush fire, Chet. Those, way up there in the sky, are the northern lights......"

"Far out." said Chet, watching them.

It was a long time before Kelly fell asleep, not because of fear, but because he found himself lost in an innocently deep, complete wonder of the blazing Aurora Borealis changing overhead.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A sick cougar snarling from a rock.

Photo: A bay mule attacking a cougar, by biting its tail and shaking.

Photo: Three park rangers on horses in a pine meadow.

Photo: 240 Robert Deputy Pilot Morgan Wainwright.

Photo: 240 Robert Deputy Paramedic Dwayne Thibideaux.

Animation: Color changing northern lights in the woods at night.

Animation: Color changing auroras over a night time winter lake with pines.

*
Subject: The Threesome.
From: patti k () Sent: Tue 12/30/08 5:49 AM

Morgan Wainwright and Dwayne Thibideaux left the park stables with their reports of the incident at Tag #70. The DNR students at the lodge had been more than happy to conduct the necropsy on the euthanized cougar the two deputy rangers had brought in to them.

Morgan chuckled. "Hey, Thib. You seemed very familiar with the identities of those men back at that camp. You even called some of them by name. Any reason why that is?" she prodded, smiling.

Dwayne Thibideaux ducked his head as they walked to the great lodge's ranger headquarters which flanked the local hospital. "Oh... That... Well, I uh,.. sort of have an interest in the part of the country where they're from. As I've been telling Trap for months now...I.."

"...really want to move to California." Morgan concluded ruefully amused.
"Away from the cold, and the entire population of East Coasters.."

Dwayne had the dignity to wince guiltily.

"Yes, I've heard the hype about you at all of Paul Carnes' pizza and beer parties. Tell me truthfully.." Morgan pegged. "Are we really all that bad?" she asked.

"Well.." Thib minced. "I.. I'm a really friendly guy.. and- and.." he stuttered,
put on the spot. " I... like ...mingling with others who're the same way...uh,
mostly." he added, suddenly realizing that he was entering really hot water.
He tried to grin appeasingly at her. But it was weak. Very weak.

But Wainwright's blank expression didn't change.
"I see." said Morgan, analyzing. "You must be pretty desperate for reminders of paradise if you're planning on rubbing elbows with a bunch of California firefighters and bugging them while they're trying to enjoy their well earned vacation."

Dwayne deflected eagerly, still uncomfortable. He crossed his arms self consciously under the heaviness of Morgan's glare. He lifted his chin. "They're not on vacation. They're just a few days early for a cross training seminar and training exercise at the airport. Now who's the expert on Tag 70's info?"
he said with more conviction, but still wavery.

Wainwright ate his lack of self confidence and spat it right back out again.
"I just read their registration data, Sherlock. Brilliant false deduction."
she said, waving their report at Thib's youthful, and flushed face. Then Morgan dropped her head and sighed. If she hadn't have already been walking, she would have started tapping her foot in irritation.
"You paramedics are all alike. You stick together like glue. Even with other paramedics like the ones we just left, whom you don't even know.
And another thing, Thib, you refuse to be open minded about the other jobs people have on the same team while you're at it.." she complained. "..our East Coast personality stereotype aside." she added, crossing her arms in like fashion. "You have this innate...mistrust.. for the rest of us who aren't medics on every med call we go on. We ARE first aid trained you know."

"Oh... Now, I see. You're categorizing me again." Thibideaux declared, now affronted. "Well let me tell YOU something. That's not what I'm thinking here. I'm thinking something else entirely.. You PILOTS are all the same."
he said, thrusting a pointing finger up in her direction.

"Huh?" Morgan gaped, her glare fading into utter disbelief and a little confusion.

Dwayne angled his jaw uncertainly in doubt for only a fraction of a second.
"Yeah..." he paused. "And I've seen you and that Ken Baxter up in the air, buzzing the hilltops in your choppers like a pair of love sick hawks... And let me tell you another thing.. You...you..." his verbal wheeze trailed off as he realized sickeningly, what he was actually saying for the first time.

Morgan's freckled face suddenly broke into an expression of mild amusement.
"Thib.. Are you trying to say you're jealous of Ken's attentions to me?" Morgan asked, stopping in her tracks. Her large hand impacted Thib on the chest when he didn't halt behind her in time. "Aww, I didn't know you had a thing for redheads.."
she cooed. Then she got sour, flipping to the other side of Morgan Wainwright's emotional coin. "We're not blond enough.." Then she walked away swiftly, leaving him alone and entirely confused.

A door opened on the side of the lodge and Trap Applegate, Thib's fellow paramedic deputy partner came outside. "Hi Thib.. I heard you had an exciting evening just now."

"You don't know the half of it.." grumbled Dwayne grimly, still staring daggers at Morgan's retreating back, and radiating confusion. ::Am I attracted to Morgan romantically?:: he mentally asked himself. ::Holy hanna!:: he quailed. ::Where did that come from?:: And he started to gape in shock.

Theodore Roosevelt "Trap" Applegate the Third's head shifted back and forth from the expression on Thib's face and Morgan's distant, but still sharp body language. "Don't tell me, you two were ripping your hair out about the impossibly vast differences between deputy pilots and paramedics again.."

Thib's happy day just continued to get more confusing and odd. "That among other things,.. um.." and he blushed. He ducked quickly so Trap couldn't see his coloring in the darkness.

Trap elbowed his younger partner and guessed it all wrong. "Keep hugging those palm trees. You'll get there yet." Then he dropped a bombshell. "In fact, we all just might eventually."

That got Thib's attention. "Whaa-, huh?" he double taked.

"You heard me right." beamed Trap, bouncing on his uniform boots. "I wanted to be the first one to tell you. Paul Carnes and Dr. Almstedt have talked with a Dr.
Kelly Brackett in the Los Angeles area..." he led on. His grin only got bigger when he saw the dreamy stars returning to Thib's troubled eyes. "..and he's all for not only a sheriff's team, but ours to relocate to his area to start up a new division with their California Highway Patrol Department."

"No kidding?" Thib drooled, his toothy grin suddenly fully rekindled.

"No kidding.. Read this.." Applegate said, handing Dwayne the letter he had just found in his mail box's in slot.

Dwayne practically tore it away from his hand, scanning the document eagerly.
He gasped in breathless excitement. "...*squeak*.. Do you know what this means?"
Thibideaux gaped.

Trap blinked matter of factly, frank and smug. "Yeah. It means that you get to live your dream of California beaches and California babes and I get to learn another side of my law enforcement career." he confided happily, smacking his partner on the chest with the folder he was carrying. "Along with learning a different kind of paramedicine."

"And we won't freeze any more." Thib squeaked again, still dumbstruck.

"That's a matter of opinion, my fine straw haired pipe dreamer. I happen to like snow."
Applegate sniffed, rubbing his feathered dark brown hair on the back of his head.
He lifted his head. "Speaking of which. Do you smell that bite on the wind?" he said, sucking in the frigid night air through his nose. "A snowstorm's coming in off the ocean."

But Thib was oblivious, his Morgan attraction dilemma completely forgotten. "I don't smell anything.... All I see is...."

"...sunshine......" Trap interrupted. Giggling, Trap took Thib by the shoulders to turn him around. "Yeah, I know. Come on, let's go check the gear in the rescue jeep before we start our next thirty six hour patrol around all the hunter tag camps."

-
Photo: Deputy Rangers Morgan Wainwright and Dwayne Thibideaux from the 1970s TV series 240 Robert.

Photo: Thib close.

Photo: Morgan close.

Photo: Deputy Paramedic Theodore Roosevelt "Trap" Applegate III from the 240 Robert TV show.

Photo: Thib by a sheriff's paramedic jeep.

Photo: A law enforcement ranger's lodge in the woods.

*
From: patti k () Sent: Sun 1/04/09 3:47 AM Subject: Winter Physics...

The morning was absolutely beautiful. The air was still, a perfect setting for getting a solid homecooked breakfast ready in the great, wild outdoors.

Birds were singing happily in the fog hanging over the valley.

The sleeping tent flap at deer camp flopped open the moment the first light of the sun touched its smoky white canvas's surface.

But the gang arose groaning, cold, miserable.

Still cocooned in their sleeping bags, they frog hopped inside of them, making a groggy beeline for the wood stack to bolster up the dim but still glowing remnants of the campfire.

As one, unspoken, they each tossed logs onto the fire with gusto, very eager to banish their violent, waking morning shivers with high, roaring flames.
Sudden sparks billowed up wildly out of control from the impacts. They had forgotten that colder air was richer in oxygen, providing for longer ember life at night.

The gang was jolted awake by the urgent need to stamp every one of them out before the sputtering sparks fully caught in the dry grass beyond the sand pit.

The frosty dawn rang with choice thoughts on the joys of the new day.

"Ow! Man, watch where you're putting your feet!" muttered Gage crankily as someone trod on one of his boots while trying to extinguish a chunk of burning bark.

"Cork it, Gage. Just keep stomping." Hank hollered. "Quick! There's another hot one to your left...!"

Johnny whirled, searching fast.

"No your OTHER left!!" Marco worried, blowing on his hands to warm them as he danced in his long underwear and hiking boots to beat down more drifting sparks landing on the ground.

Gage coughed, and winced.
"Could you all just... stay a little quieter?! My head still hurts from that mule kicking me." Johnny hissed, stomping fast as he cushioned his head from the vibrations with both hands.

"She didn't kick you, Gage. She nudged you outta the way." Stoker groused, stamping as hard as the rest of them.

Hank wasn't listening. He was analyzing. "Geez, Louise. How can a thirty degree temperature drop make fire more resistant?"

Stoker answered confidently. "Because of density. There's 2% more oxygen here per cubit foot than back at home. It's far colder." A spark drifted down onto his hair and caught it on fire. "AhhHH!!" Stoker panicked, sweeping fast hands through his hair to snuff it out.

Marco tossed a pot full of icy drinking water on him to smother out Mike's blaze.

Dripping, Stoker screeched. "Hey! That's-- BBbbbbbrrrrrr-rrrr..." Mike shivered in his newly soaked clothes.

"Get changed fast." Gage recommended. "Or you're gonna--"

Mike instantly disappeared back inside his abandoned sleeping bag so he could strip down to the skin to dry off. Roy hastily tossed him a bundle of fresh clothes from the tent.

"That better not be my best shirt.." Chet complained, his eyes never leaving the ground where he was stamping.

"It's not." said DeSoto. "It's mine."

"Sorry, Roy." apologized Stoker.

"No problem." Roy replied.

"Thanks a lot, pal." Stoker glared at Marco from his bag where he was lying on the ground, wriggling.

"Any time.." Lopez said, grumpy. "Better wet than charcoal, don't you think?"

"Hey, good idea." Hank sputtered, suddenly thinking without his usual coffee.
Stanley snapped out another order. "Everybody grab our empty coffee cans and run to the creek. We're gonna douse every single hotspot. The right way!" he shouted.

"Before breakfast?" Kelly peeped.

"Duh..." Hank roared, pointing angrily to the stream as he thunked an empty can into Chet's stomach.

"Ow.. watch the solar plexus." Kelly griped.

"Just go." Stanley spat.

A few water trips later, most of the burning, escaped embers were nearly out.

Then DeSoto gasped loudly. That halted everybody in their tracks. They turned to him, all eyes. The paramedic pointed, his hand shaking with the cold.
"Is that really snow over there?!" squinted Roy in horror, gaping at an open spot in the woods.

The group slowly took in the icy, unfamiliar sight with mixed reactions.

Chet was the first to break out of it. He just grinned. "Yep...." he said as he watched Stoker now struggling to get his shirt on over his still damp hair and arms.
Kelly scratched his head thoughtfully. "Say, that gives me a terrific idea.." The curly haired fireman jogged over to the rope tying off the tree hung deer meat net and grabbed onto it with both hands. "I know how we can put the rest of these sparks out in about two seconds. Watch.."

Cap shouted, "No, don't do th--!!" But he was too late.

With a gleeful jerk on the deer net line, Kelly sent down a large avalanche of tree trapped snow right down on top of them all in a noisy shower of heavy clumps.

It had the effect intended. The wafting embers in the air and on the grass were extinguished.

But so was their much hoped for flaming campfire. It disappeared in a huge volcanic eruption of steam, utterly and irrevocably smothered by melting ice.

The others gaped in horror at the fire pit, now drowning in an ashy lake.

"Oops.." said Chet.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Five minutes later, six sets of teeth chattered loudly as the gang sat crunched all together in the rover's front cab section. They had the heater on full blast at the highest setting as they sat tightly huddled under a pile of blankets.

Cap still had snow dripping off of his head. "Okay, we're fine now.
Nothing that a little gasoline engine won't cure in a few minutes."

"Try a f-few days, Cap." Gage shivered miserably, sarcastic.

"Don't be f-funny." Stanley snapped.

"Well, HE was t-trying to b-be.." Johnny protested, pointing at Chet,
sandwiched in next to him.

"No, he w-wasn't." said Hank. "He solved our problem. I-Intelligently."

"Thank you, C-Cap." Kelly said.

Hank dipped his head graciously, dumping more soggy wet snow onto Chet's lap.

"AhHH!" Kelly jerked, swiping the half frozen stuff off of sensitive areas. "Watch all the r-runoff, man. That's c-cold.."

"You finally n-noticed?" said Lopez, still ticked off. The side of his face was squashed against a breath foggy window from an elbow crowding him in a cheek.

Cap poised a question, hugging his soggy, steaming knees to avoid poking the others. "Think they spotted that?" He meant the ranger fire spotters stationed at the main lodge's watch tower.

"No. Not enough smoke. It's still too foggy in our valley."
Stoker said.

"Let's hope so." Hank said fervently.

Stoker started laughing. "How's this for g-getting close to nature, huh?
I think my butt's frozen to the seat." He chortled.

His sense of the ridiculous soon got the others just as infected and soon they were all warm with mirth as the blower's heat finally sank into their bones.

Two hours later, the six of them piled out of the jeep gratefully.
They were warm, dry and red faced with heat, but re-determined to start their day again. The right way this time.

"Say, there, Chet." Hank said, taking Kelly in with a friendly arm over a shoulder. "You wouldn't happen to have any guidebooks on winter camping tricks, would you?"

"I do. And I promise you this one's thoroughly up to date." Kelly told him.

Photo: Close up of an ember glowing campfire ring.

Photo: Roy looking up, stunned, with a gray background.

Photo: A winter river valley scene, out in the open.

Photo: Cap and Stoker, looking dismayed, tired in sweats.

Photo: A tent and campfire newly dumped on with snow.

Photo: The gang holed up inside Johnny's Rover.

Photo: Cap looking concerned and thoughtful, in closeup.

*
From: patti k () Sent: Tue 1/06/09 1:13 PM Subject: Like Loves Like..

Joey Collins followed Park Ranger Pilot Ken Baxter like an eager puppy. "Are we really going to fly up high into the sky in that..?!" the boy shouted excitedly.

He pointed to the red and white EC-145 that was running rotors hot in the clearing before them while hanging onto his navy cap he was wearing tightly with both hands so the ground snow blowing around them from the props wash didn't tear it off. "...For real?"

"Yessiree." said Baxter, smiling broadly. His dimples smiled, too, accentuating his bushy moustache and friendly eyes.
"I got a copy of your grandma's consent form right here." he said,
patting his pocket. "Captain Carnes made all the arrangements.
Which, by the way... I saw you studying that map of ours in the lodge oh so thoroughly." he winked. "Just where do you want to go to first, young man? We've enough fuel for a two hour flight and we'll only diverge if something happens and one of the rangers on the ground needs us for some kind of delivery task."

"You mean like rescues and stuff?" Joey asked, diving off a rock and landing in a big pile of fall leaves at the edge of the landing square.

"Not always, but could be. When that happens, I want you to stay belted right there in the co-pilot's seat with your communications helmet and seat belt on real tight."

"I promise." Joey told him, impatiently brushing leaf bits from his face,
hair and jacket. "Can we go up to the highest place you know of?"

"It's a go. Remember to always keep your head down like this as we get real close in. The blades are dangerous and can bounce in the wind even though they're turning full out. That's it. Good ducking.
Ready? If so, then hop on up. Let's get you settled in." Baxter said, opening the glass bubble door on the side of the chopper. "Next I want you to put this on." he said, handing Joey a mini version of a white flight helmet he had pulled out of the chopper's cargo hold. "Here." Ken shouted, reaching out with it to the blond haired boy.

Joey didn't take it.
"But what about my hat? This was Dad's cap. I- I don't like to take it off." Joey said firmly, when Ken tried handed him the all enclosing helmet with its single radio wire port again.

"You mean you wear that cap even when you take a bubble bath?"
Ken asked him lightly, chuckling gently as he let go of the door. It shut.
The cool wind tousled his wavy brown hair around sparkling blue eyes.

"No, I don't." Collins shouted shyly.

"Well, then. I'm sure your Dad would have understood the special occasion this is, son. You're about to go flying off in a rescue helicopter with a real live park ranger pilot. Doesn't that amount to something? I used to be Navy in the old days. Just served in Nam, too." he said, tapping the brim of Joey's U.S.S. Intrepid cap affectionately. Then he opened the curving door of the chopper's cockpit again and began fussing with the second seat to get it low enough so Joey's feet could touch the transparent floor. "It'd be no disgrace at all trying out new things in his honor, son."

"Well,..... okay, Mr. Baxter. But I'm not letting go of it. Not for an instant." Joey said with some stress that Ken noticed. Joey climbed into the seat Ken hefted him up to, almost reluctantly, hanging onto the baseball cap for dear life. He still didn't take it off.

"You ain't nervous about flying now, are ya?" Ken said as he buckled up Joey's four point crossed seat belt in around his fur lined parka. "I know a pair of ranger gals, a doctor and a paramedic, who are. They're deathly afraid of it. And of me, too, I think. For no good reason." he joked.

Joey scoffed. "I met those two. Joanne and Terri. They're okay for girls.
And no, I'm not scared. I love helicopters. And ships. Dad used to tell me about them all the time." the Collins boy insisted, still not smiling. "I know exactly what bird this is. She's an EC-145 with a clam shell back loader and she can get up to 130 mph, even in a headwind.." declared Joey. "And turn on a dime in the air if she wants to."

Ken rubbed his moustache with amusement.
"Land sakes. You sure know your stuff, Joey. Glad to have you aboard." he saluted him cheerfully. "Here. Tell you what. You put this helmet on whenever you feel like it. I won't rush ya. I promise I won't take off until you're ready."

"I don't know.." Joey said, his face beginning to pinch in its old, familiar pain as he ran his hands over the helmet's lightly debris pocked surface.

Baxter just sighed and shut and locked Joey's door firmly. Then he moved over to the other side of the chopper around the front and got into the pilot's seat. Once both doors were shut, the roaring power of the chopper eased into a muted, steady buzz.

Ken touched Joey's shoulder. "It's all right. I understand. How about tucking your baseball cap between your knees? You can do that real tight. And you'll be able to hang onto it with both hands while we talk, too, because the mic keys up differently than a ground radio's. You see that?" Ken asked, pointing to a silver button embedded in the middle of the floor on the co-pilot's side.
It was the only solid metal plate embedded in the glass bubble arching under Joey's feet.

"Oh, that's the foot controlled talk toggle." Collins said excitedly. "And that's the altimeter and that's our fuel level gauge and that's the velocity monitor.. and.."
he said pointing to switches and indicators all over the chopper's flight control panel that stretched between them. "..those others are all really cool!"

"Quite right." said, Ken, sliding into his own helmet smoothly. "Hmmmm. Looks like I'm going to have a mighty fine ace co-pilot flying with me. Welcome aboard, Joey." he said, reaching over to shake Joey's hand. "Glad you're joining our team this week. It should be a real adventure. It always is."

Joey slid out of his father's cap and into his helmet quickly. "I'm ready for some."

"Good boy." Ken grinned. Then he toggled his radio trigger. "Ranger Tower,
this is Bluebird Five. We've two souls on board, lifting off for a civilian tour. We'll be staying within the boundaries of the park with no touchdowns. I am still available for normal business. My transponder is on." he said, plugging the communications cable into the side of Joey's helmet.

##Copy, Bluebird Five. Two souls on board. Lift-off at 12:44. Sistercraft 240 Robert Air, is on the ground at this time. Your immediate airspace, is clear.##

"10-4, Ranger Tower." Baxter replied.

##Current weather. Clear skies. Wind zero nine zero at five gusts to one five#
said the dispatcher at the lodge.

"Copy that. Much appreciated. Bluebird Five, out. Okay, partner.. let's get this show on the road." Ken told Joey. Then the boy and pilot took their bird into the frigid air gleefully.

Photo: Ken Baxter, ranger pilot wearing a basecap cap.

Photo: Joey Collins, looking pensive, wearing a navy cap.

Photo: A happy boy diving into a big pile of leaves.

Photo: A chopper resting on a high steep snow covered mountain peak.

From: patti k () Sent: Mon 2/09/09 1:29 PM Subject: Popsicle

"Guess what I figured out?" Chet said to the gang at large.

It was noon time and the morning's frigid snow bath was just a dim memory, fading fast.

"What's that?" Mike Stoker asked finally, when no one else replied as they relaxed or cooked or played again around camp.

"I like being warm, that's what." Kelly told him, half serious. "And I'm really glad the sun decided to cooperate with us and kick out the same heat we had yesterday." he said, burying the last traces of snow he still found in the shadows under his lawnchair with a restless hiking boot.
"What's the temperature at now, Roy?"

Roy replied, no longer cocooned inside of his plaid winter jacket and sleeping bag. "55 F and rising." he said, peering at the barometer box duct taped to the picnic table where he sat. "Ah, almost feels like I'm home again..." he said, cradling the device with a protective hand.

Marco chuckled. "That's if you close your eyes and picture palm trees.."

Stoker smirked. "Have you been nesting near that thing since we got here, Roy? I thought we were supposed to get away from technology and just get back to nature this weekend."

DeSoto blinked at him matter of factly, contented eyed. "I like to keep myself well informed when I'm in new places. Weather wise angle included."

Hank rubbed his nose. "Why torture yourself? You already know the rest of the country is automatically gonna be colder than home is."

"Yeah, I know. I know." DeSoto insisted defensively. "But old habits die hard. I remember how cold I got on that d*m*d ferry in Seattle last year going to that convention and ever since then, I like to be prepared."

Gage regarded him ruefully. "You were underdressed. I told you turtle necks weren't enough. But those fire girls were sure good company. I never even felt that chill."

DeSoto started grinning, but for a different reason. "And neither did that newborn calf. He was actually kind of cute once we got him dried off. And I still can't believe a seven year old barn kid taught me how to dress properly in winter weather once his cow had finished giving birth."

"Not so unusual, if you ask me." said Gage. "Farmers and ranchers are the best weathermen around." he declared from his tipped chaise lounge, its backrest supported on a tree.

Chet rose to the bait, aiming a coffee mug warmed finger in Johnny's direction. "Okay, smarty pants. You're a rancher. Predict our weather for the rest of the day..." Kelly challenged.

Johnny narrowed his eyes matter of factly. Then he peered up into the sky, scanning it thoughtfully. His eyes drifted shut and he sucked in a huge breath of air slowly before blowing it back out again. Then he opened his shirt to let the air in a little closer to his skin.

The others waited with unveiled amusement at his antics.

Gage finally spoke, keeping his eyes closed loosely.
"Snowstorm's blown itself out over the ocean. Feel it weakening over there?"
he announced, gesturing at the last patch of dark sky to their east mysteriously while still blind. "Next, a wind's gonna pick up inland and get a little gusty."

On cue, the fall colored trees began to sway for the first time, softly rustling, with growing energy. Johnny smiled. "And it'll be luke warm all day right where it is now. That heavy fog down valley's gonna stay with us in the low spots. Pressure's rising fast, but not fast enough to dispel it."

"What is it?" Chet asked, scoffing in doubt.

"28.9 to 29.1 millimeters mercury or so.." Gage told him, not opening his eyes. "With relative humidity in the eighties."

Roy almost fell out of the chair when he leaned back to confirm that check on the barometer unit near him. He blinked in surprise, gaping at his partner with a question half formed on his lips.

"My neck's beginning to creak when I move it." Johnny replied to Roy's unspoken 'how did you do that?' reaction. "Only does that when the weather's turning fair while still wet."

Chet laughed. "That's how you know?"

Gage dropped his poised analyzing pretense and glared actively at Chet. "Yeah, that's part of how I know. If you guys'd just stay quiet every now and then to reach out with your senses and listen to what your body's telling you, you'd be able to predict the weather, too. It's nothing special. Pay attention to your surroundings while letting go of a few of them when we're back home once or twice and you'll see what I'm talking about."

Kelly waggled his eyebrows. "I don't think I want to do that. I might get mugged on my front porch."

The gang laughed, recalling the neighborhood Chet hailed from in east L.A.

There was a pregnant pause when both Hank and Kelly eyed up the still simmering coffee pot on the fire grill at the same time. Ferally.

Suddenly, both their hands shot out for its handle. Cap's longer arm won out over Irish speed and he toasted Chet triumphantly with it high into the air. "Still too slow." he crowed. Then he poured out the last dregs into his stone pottery mug and clanked the empty pot back down again. "Ahhh," he sipped in satisfaction. "Your turn to get more water." Stanley announced as was his right as the winner. "The river's that way." he said, pointing into the fog.

Chet scoffed a gesture and picked up the coffee pot, hugging it close to his chest for its radiant warmth and meager comfort. "It's still cold down there." he complained.

"Why so it is. Huh, imagine that. Guess you're gonna haveta... just bundle up there, pal." Hank said, still smiling broadly.

The others tittered.

Stoker chortled. "Rules of the coffee game.." Mike teased. "Last man out rebrews the pot. You're going."

"All right, all right. Don't rush me. Geez.." Kelly said, zipping up his jacket to the chin. He eyed up the woods unenthusiastically.

"Hurry up, I'm getting thirsty here. I might burn the waffles for being so distracted." said Marco, licking his lips, through the fire smoke. He was half serious.

"Okay, I'm off. I'm gone.." Chet whined back, trudging slowly for the tent. He reached down for the silver pail.

"Not the baby bucket. The five gallon collapsible." Hank ordered. "Pump's in the red sack."

"Aw, Cap. That'll take forever!" Chet complained loudly.

"Not if you're fast about it. Now shoo."

Kelly gave up his protesting and picked up the crumpled cube and hand pump satchel.
As he tramped off into the trees he pulled on his winter gloves, and both hoods of his jacket, grumbling.

The fog swallowed him up.

Chet found the river by sound and was grateful the heavy mist had lifted over the water. He crouched down to set up and string the pump tubing into the five gallon jug's port.

He shivered and glanced downstream as he cranked the wheel. Icy water began to fill the container. He saw scour marks on the banks from the high water that must have been there a scant hour ago from the effects of the snow storm of the night before.

He looked upstream, and startled. Barely visible in the glowing fog, a partially unclothed man lay face up in the water next to the remnants of a shattered, brightly colored water kayak. His helmet and life vest, were missing.

Kelly shot to his feet and began to splash over to him quickly, blowing triple blasts on a hiker's distress whistle that he snatched out from a lanyard around his neck in an alert to the others.

Seconds later, Chet heard the noisy snapping cracks of breaking branches and the hiss of undergrowth being shoved aside hastily as the gang came running.

"Chet?!" came Hank's worried shout. "We're here. What's happening? We got the radio!"

"Guys! On the double.. There's a man down in the water!!" Kelly yelled back urgently still stumbling over the submersed rocks he couldn't see in the shallow, fast flowing current, trying to hurry. "Face up but not moving, forty feet upstream of me!"

"In how deep?" Hank roared, still invisible to Chet.

"Way under a foot! He's snagged on a rock."

He heard an unseen Marco reply. "I'll get us gear!"

Kelly dimly saw Gage and Roy adjust their flight to the river according to his directions.
But they were forced to slow their bounding as they reached the still thick, blanketing fog hanging over the water.

Chet shouted again as he tried to find foot stones to use by boot toe's feel under the water. "There's a fallen birch log across the water, right where he is. See it?
His feet are on top of it. The air's real clear here down low."

A splash announced somebody's arrival the moment Chet reached the kayaker. It was Roy. "We got him!" said DeSoto as Chet and he crouched swiftly over the man's head, on the submersed sandbar.

Kelly moulded his fingers for a jaw thrust and opened the man's mouth under Roy's ear. The man's skin had stiffened and was a pale white blue in the fog filtered sunlight. "Is he breathing?" Kelly asked him.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A shallow river gorge in autumn.

Photo: A shirtless man lying face up in a stream bed.

Photo: Chet Kelly in camping gear spotting something.

Photo: Roy and Johnny outside in thick fog looking intently.

Photo: A jaw thrust airway move being performed on an unconscious man.

Photo: Roy looking down, treating someone.

Photo: Gage examining a victim intently, worried.

Photo: Chet Kelly looked tense with lowered eyes, outside.

*
Subject: Popsicle Wrap From: patti k () Sent: Wed 2/11/09 2:53 AM "I can't tell that yet." DeSoto replied. "But keep him open for now. Let me check a few more things first." he said, over the noise of the flowing water.

"But.."

"Chet, he may be in a diving reflex. He doesn't need any more oxygen for a while if his heart's still beating. But I have to know that second fact for sure before we start messing with him in any way."

Hank, Johnny and Stoker jumped into the shallows and joined them swiftly.

Stanley began to radio out from where he stood upstream as a safety, making sure river debris and pieces of the large kayak wasn't going to barrel in on the current to their position. "Marker 70 to Appalachian Central. Mayday. Mayday.."

"Where're you at?" Gage asked Roy in a check list.

"Just starting the primary." DeSoto replied quickly. He didn't miss the distressed look on Kelly's face. Reaching down, DeSoto pulled one of the man's arms away from where it was curled in its fetal position against his chest, gently straightening it out to his side. It immediately curled back again, jelly slow. "He's still alive, Chet. Dead muscles can't contract."

Kelly grabbed for the man's wrist, with a free hand, feeling for a pulse. "I don't feel anything."

"That's because of vasoconstriction in his arms and legs." Roy said, next groping for a careful carotid pulse. "Everything's severely slowed down. He could be breathing only once every 30 seconds, because with this water chilling him, his body doesn't need to any faster." He frowned in concentration, as he probed for the artery. "I still can't find one, Johnny."

Chet let Mike take over his jaw airway hold and he moved over to the kayaker's bare chest, framing his hands into a CPR position. Gage stopped him physically. "Wait, don't do anything yet. We're not through assessing him."

Johnny switched to feeling at the pulse point on the other side of the man's neck as Roy bent over to place a hasty ear on the man's ribcage.

"Shouldn't we get him out of the water?" Kelly asked, moving his ansing hands away from the man's chest. He blew on his soaked icy fingers to warm them as he studied the man's open, staring, dull eyes.

"That's next once Marco brings sleeping bags. He has to stay horizontal. All this water flowing around him's acting like mast trousers. If we rush things too fast, his pressure will drop. He might be injured, too. Just look at his accident mechanism here." Gage said, throwing a head up at the splintered remains of the kayak. "We move him only the absolute minimum necessary once we figure out how to fashion him good C-spine stabilization."

Hank turned up the gain on their park hunter's radio. "This is Marker 70, Mayday!" Then he released the button. "This ravine's in a dead zone. I'm going up higher, back to camp. Mike as soon as you get him secured airway wise, take over my spot as safety if you can. I'll be back in three minutes."

"Right, Cap." Stoker replied.

Lopez came hurrying back, heavily laden with a first aid bag and as many sleeping bags as he could drag, along with all of their clothes and jackets. "I filled one up with rocks heated from the fire.." he gasped, laying out that one with a silver mylar space blanket, unfolded, open and ready. He tossed Mike the right sized Berman tube.

Stoker caught it to use. Soon he lifted his head. "He took in a gasp just now. A small one. Right when I hooked in the oral airway."

Gage and DeSoto just nodded from where they were frozen in place, monitoring the man intently. Then they both jerked excitedly. "There! We definitely got something." Johnny shouted. "I just felt a few beats."

"Yeah, and I heard a definite arrythmia." Roy agreed, smiling. He rose quickly up onto his feet and began to organize a lifting grip. "He's about two beats a minute here."

Kelly gaped. "Is that enough?"

Johnny waggled his head at Chet. "Even though his heart is beating very slowly, it is filling completely and distributing blood fairly effectively if we can hear it and feel it like this. You remember that external cardiac compressions only are 20-30% effective? His blood's flowing only around his core with far decreased demands right now. He can stay viable and satisfy his circulatory needs with only those 2-3 beats per minute just fine. Good thing we didn't start CPR. That would have pushed cold, acidotic blood into his still beating heart and arrested it. On your findings, Mike, get a CPR mask. Start donating your heat. We're gonna prevent all respiratory heat loss and from everywhere else from here on out. Time your ventilations with his when you can detect them and then add a few more of your own, at 6-12 times a minute. We need to offer him more oxygen now if we're going to raise his metabolic rate by moving him. Adding warm, moist air to his lungs will stimulate his brain stem activity and even out his heart rate."

"Okay." Stoker said, looking up from the mask he had covered with a ski glove to insulate his blown in breaths' heat from the cold air. "He's not bubbling here.
There's no edema yet."

"Let's keep it that way." said Gage, thinking to himself as he worked to ease the man's legs gently back down to level off the log.

Kelly asked. "What the game plan?"

"Shouldn't we work a little faster?" Marco said along with Chet.

DeSoto looked up from where he was feeling the man's spine for problems. "Guys, we're not going to try and rewarm him out here in the woods. We don't have the proper equipment to do that safely. We want to just stabilize his core temperature and prevent any further heat loss." Roy explained. "Johnny, nothing's obviously off on his spinal column."

Gage coughed eagerly. "Then a manual move's warranted if we're careful."

"So let's get him out of here then." said Chet urgently, worried.
Roy remained calm and collected. "Marco, get ready to cut off his clothes. We have to dry him off completely once we get him up to you." DeSoto shouted.

"I'm set. Also, there are plenty of branches and sticks up here we can use to build a travois." Lopez reported.

Johnny smiled.
"Good going. We needed some way to transfer him to a landing zone without jarring him alot. His heart's sensitive to physical disturbances right now. He's still at a high risk for going into V-fib at the slightest physical shock. We are going to take a ton of time every step of the way to mimimize that."
Gage said, feeling up and down the man's limbs for fractures and injuries.
"That's odd, Roy. He seems clear here, too. No blood or deformities."

"Maybe he collapsed just from the cold." Chet hoped. "He could have been wandering around in last night's storm for a while, confused from his hypothermia."

"That's probably what happened to him. Look,.." Marco said. "I found his helmet in the brush." he said, holding up a red one that had the same serial number as the kayak on it. It was whole and uncracked.

DeSoto shook his head in negation.
"We're still assuming broken back/broken neck. Get down here with us. He's set to move. Kelly, keep tabs on his vitals. Mike, you've got his head so you're coordinating all of us. We'll level up on your count." Roy said.

Cap came back moments later from a dead run. "I got out a transmission. They're sending us a chopper and a paramedic land unit. ETA ten minutes."

"Good news.. We've a pulse and breathing, Cap." Chet said, filling him in.

"Terrific. Knew he wasn't gone yet. His eyes are still reacting to sunlight." and Hank took his place in the inches deep water to help with their lift and carry.

Chet Kelly looked down and saw that it was true.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A man on his back in the water.

Photo: Bare feet submerged in a flowing streambed.

Photo: Captain Stanley looking down.

Animation: An animated gif of a fireman doing a head to toe assessment on an unconscious patient.

Photo: A CPR pocket mask in place over a face.

Animation: A stream flowing over rocks in close up.

Photo: Roy in a yellow shirt looking serious and worried.

Subject: Fate Squared.
Date: Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:43 am From: patti k

The gang slowly and smoothly carried the man spine straight, up the river bank.
They rounded the small slope that led over to the insulating sheet lying on the dried grass in full warm sunlight and set him down gently. Stoker knelt once more to continue his breathing support while the others began applying ski cap after ski cap onto the kayaker's head.
Swiftly, Marco began stripping away the man's water ice frozen clothing while Cap and the paramedics dried him off thoroughly with a few sweaters.
"Definite inspiratory efforts here. Still just a couple a minute." Mike reported as he listened and watched the man's chest and mouth in between ventilations.
"Pulse's ten." said Chet. "It's getting more erratic, guys."
DeSoto frowned, checking the man's eyes.
"His pupils are starting to dilate. Bundle up, Mike." Roy told him. "Keep your temperature really elevated by zipping up your jacket and hood. We'll set you on oxygen to give right back to him. He's running short on it now..." he said, thinking hard about treatment. "Chet?"
"I heard." Kelly replied, snatching for their jump bag. "Cannula on two liters, right?"
"Yeah." said Johnny.
"Make it four. It won't be too irritating for me right away." Stoker said.
Gage nodded in agreement. "Okay, the more the merrier."
Chet didn't disturb Mike's position working with the insulated pocket mask as he got Stoker going on their D tank. He fitted the prongs around Mike's face and chin, hooking the tubing over his ears and out of the way over his shoulder. "If you think you're getting colder in the slightest, I'll take over. I'm sweating." he told Mike.
"I'll let you know when." said Stoker. Cap issued an order. "Marco, smoke up our campfire some more and have a mirror set for signalling. I'll lay out these wet clothes and pieces of the kayak onto the snow so the pilot can locate us easier."
"Right, Cap." Lopez said, running up the hill towards their deer camp.
Again, Roy was puzzled over their patient. "Johnny, he still doesn't appear to be grossly injured." he said as he and Johnny carefully checked again for problems. "There's not a mark on him anywhere obvious that I can see."
"I agree." said Johnny, beginning to tuck the sheet around the man after placing sock wrapped hot stones at the sides of his neck, groin and armpits. "Just the same, I'll rig him up a C-collar from rolled clothes. Once he's shelled up snug, we can find something flat to strap him onto for a backboard."
"How about a backpack rack?" suggested Stoker.
"That'll work." Gage decided. "Great idea." Then he turned his attention to Roy. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Umm hmm.." replied Roy. "He's got severe hypothermia for sure. There's active cold diuresis setting in." Roy concluded.
"How much do you think he's losing?" Hank asked them.
"Quite a bit of fluid, Cap. Now I'm kicking myself for not bringing a few I.V.s along, too." Gage grumbled as he and Roy started to quickly zip up the layers of sleeping bags around the kayaker that Marco had set up for them.

"Smoke's set and noticable." Lopez said, pointing up into the sky as he returned.

The others followed his gaze and nodded. "Good going, pal." said Hank.

"And I brought some rope from the rover so we can build that travois." Lopez said. "Our belts aren't going to be enough."

"Thanks.." said Chet, starting in on that task with his hunting knife and a small axe.
"Maybe this guy still has a story to tell." Cap wondered and he started to go through their patient's discarded denim jeans pants pockets, looking for an I.D. or other clues. He found a key on a keychain, clearly marked with the park's name. "It's from the lodge's hotel." "Then we might be able to have him identified for the doctors even before we arrive at the park hospital." Johnny said. "Call in the room number."
Stoker cursed, making them all look up.
"Problems?" Gage asked, placing his hands on the man's chest reflexively.

"Not with him. Look down there." he said, pointing down to the river from the high point they had found as a refuge. "Whoever this man is, he wasn't alone."
"Sh*t." Cap said, rising to his feet. "Marco you're with me. We're going to start a search along both banks of the river." he ordered, snatching up the radio.
A second kayak paddle was drifting down the current lazily among the chunks of ice.

Lopez and Stanley took off at a run for upstream for the spot in which they had found the kayaker.

Gage started to bolt after them, picking up two of the three coils of rope that Marco had found in camp. "I'm going with you, Cap."

"Take this.." said Roy, throwing him the first aid kit. "I'll fire up a signal flare when help arrives.."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A kayaker going vertical inside a rapids eddy.

Photo: A kayaker in distress, without a paddle on the water.

Photo: Marco looking worried in a yellow shirt outside.

Photo: Roy DeSoto in a striped shirt, scared.

*
Subject: Awakening.
From: patti k () Sent: Sat 2/28/09 3:20 AM

In Bluebird Five, Pilot Ken Baxter heard the rescue call go out for the park's better equipped paramedic chopper. He glanced at Joey Collins, seated in the co-pilot's seat next to him as the dispatcher continued to give details over the scanner channel.

##....Appalachian Central, 240-Robert Air. Single hypothermia victim without apparent trauma reported at Marker 70. Medically trained civilian personnel are at hand and rescue with treatment has been affected. Adult male, early thirties, kayaker. Respond along the river on the bluff 200 feet below the deer camp.##

"Somebody's hurt down there?" asked the radio helmeted little boy with worry.

Ken smiled. "Yep. But don't you worry about it. We're getting help there faster than you can spit." he said, gripping the flight joystick a little tighter. "240's a bullet in the air when she wants to be. And Morgan's pure ace getting to places."

Baxter heard his co-pilot Morgan Wainright respond first, followed by Deputy Paramedics Dwayne Thibideaux and Trap Applegate from their ground SUV. ##240-Robert Air, 10-4. Patching in to that radio's comm frequency, direct.## said Morgan. ##My E.T.A. is four minutes.##

Ken heard Trap thumb the mic from the roving sheriff's rescue jeep. ## AP Base, we're doing the same. Copy kayaker in distress, Marker 70. Our E.T.A. is approximately eight minutes.##

The dispatcher back at the park headquarters acknowledged both units.
##Copy, 240-Robert. Hospital Urgent Unit has been notified. A physician and an RN are standing by. *Beep* Alert: Weather condition change. Radar is indicating winds are increasing zero nine zero at fifteen gusts to forty in the valley with ground bound fog.##

"Are we going, too?" Joey Collins asked fast.

"Only if we're badly needed. See?" The park ranger said, casting a hand about the helicopter's large cockpit space." We need a lot bigger landing zone on account of our size. Take a look. It's all forest down there with few holes, except for where rocks and water are poking through. Marker 70's near cliffsides and a river. And their one tiny meadow is the only open spot for miles."

"Can we fly over and at least make sure they're okay?" Joey said with growing worry. He minced in his seat, gripping his Navy cap so hard, that his fingers were turning white.

Ken could see his young passenger was reliving the ghost of some kind of painful memory. Gently, he reached over and patted his arm.
"Sorry, son. We need to keep the skies absolutely clear for Morgan so she can land her bird. But I promise you, we'll keep this radio hot so we can listen in real hard to what's going on. Good or bad. Just like I told your grandma. Deal?"

Joey didn't look up at Ken, but he nodded minisculely, eyes fastened like glue to the trees weaving and bobbing beneath them. Finally, he spoke, his voice barely above a murmur."Which way are they from here?"

"West, to your ten o'clock." Ken answered, tuning the radio to a sharper focus on multiple autoscan.

Joey peered about, squashing his nose to the dew dropped windowed door on his left. A minute went by. Then he shouted. "I think I see smoke way over there!"

Baxter looked. "Uh. Huh. That's their signal fire. Smart men. They know how to call in a chopper real fine. Morgan should have no trouble at all finding that."

Next to him, Joey collapsed, limp. "Good. Cause nobody should have to be.... hurt all alone." he whimpered suddenly.

Ken glanced over. The boy's face was deeply etched, lost once again in the past. But he appeared that he hadn't noticed what he had just mumbled.

Baxter gave the boy some peace with respectful space and silence.
Inwardly, his thoughts carried on. ::Ah, so that's how it went, when you lost your dad.:: he realized.

Ken Baxter lowered his head in sympathy as he flew, not disturbing Joey's new private fugue.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ranger Paul Carnes, at his desk in the lodge, sat up from his paperwork and turned up the volume on his scanner radio as the call came out. He automatically switched to Marker 70's channel to link in to any new raw communications themselves as they came in from the campsite.

He waved Terri Blake and Joanne Almstedt over to have a listen.
Both nurse and doctor hit their pager acknowledgments for the alert the dispatcher had just flashed to them.

"Sounds like a bad one." Paul said to them.

"We'll be ready." said Joanne, unbuttoning her doctor' coat.

Carnes nodded. "I have it on file that the men out there are current firefighters. Two of them are California paramedics."

"Great!" said Joanne brightly. "One in a row."

"State of the art training then." said Terri thoughtfully, scratching the taped cut on her cheek.

Paul pursed his lips. "I'm sorry to say this, but I'm afraid they're only going to be as good as the equipment they have with them, until our people actually get there to help out."

That silenced the two female park rangers instantly.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Helicopter flying over the mountains.
Photo: Joey Collins looking worried out a window.

Photo: Ken Baxter, looking concerned, closeup.

Photo: A smoke signal, rising up from a campsite.

Photo: Dr. Joanne Almstedt, frowning over a keyboard.

Photo: Nurse Terri Blake, frowning in worry.

Photo: Ranger Paul Carnes, looking serious.

Animation: An SOS automated GPS locator signaller firing.

*
Subject: Calvary Calling.
From: patti k () Sent: Mon 3/02/09 1:46 PM

Morgan Wainwright keyed up her mic as she flew her chopper at top speed. "240 Robert-Air to Tag 70, what's your patient's status? We are linked to two ground paramedics on their way to you and to our hospital's physician."

Running full tilt next to Cap and Marco, Gage took the camp radio Hank handed to him.
## 240 Robert-Air. Critical. ## Johnny reported. ##Vitals are : Pulse is ten and irregular but effective. Respirations were depressed, now being assisted mouth to mouth with pure oxygen. BP's unpalpable due to vasoconstriction in the arms and legs.
Severe hypothermia has set in and there's steady excessive urinary output. We found no signs of frostbite. He's been fully immobilized and we've prevented all further heat loss.##

##Tag 70, This is Dr. Almstedt at Appalachia. I copy vitals. Have you any fluid crystalloids handy?## Joanne asked as she studied Paul Carnes and Terri Baxter while she concentrated.

##Negative. We've no I.V.s at all.## Johnny replied.

Trap, in the rushing sheriff's rescue jeep, broke into the channel. "Tag 70, 240 Robert Ground. We've plenty warming in the cooker." he said, eyeing up his partner Thib, who was packing four bags of NS into their battery heated insulation packs. "How's his airway doing?"

## We've a working oralpharyngeal. ## said Johnny. ##But we've a new development. There may be a second victim out here.##

Paramedics, pilots and park rangers alike, startled and there was a long pause of dead air on the radio.

"Where?" asked Morgan, nosing down into the final valley separating them.

##Somewhere upstream of us along the river. Another kayaker.## Gage told them all through the channel. ##We spotted fresh debris that was his a few minutes ago.##

"I'll attempt to locate. What's your twenty?" she asked, dipping the helicopter skillfully down low to follow the river course.

Hank answered. ##Upstream of the smoke plume at camp, next to a shallow cliff to the west in a beech grove. We're on the same bank, three hundred yards up from there.##

Morgan answered. "Watching for you. You listen for me." she said firmly.

##Will do.## said Hank.

Back at camp, Roy worked feverishly to keep their patient insulated along every seam. Chet had taken over for Stoker respiratory heating wise and the engineer was actively clearing out loose debris in the meadow to make ready for a helicopter landing. Thinking fast, Mike stabbed four sticks with tied down bright bits of clothing to mark off the combed through square of land.
He added a fifth stick in between two others to indicate the direction the wind was blowing into the meadow. Then he hurried back to the others.

"LZ's set with a directional, guys. One hundred fifty foot square. There's no soft spots as far as I can tell." Stoker said.

"Powerlines?" Roy asked.

"None."

DeSoto nodded. "We've done all we can for him here. I don't want to disturb his position anymore. Could you help me keep tabs on his pulse?"

"Yeah." said Mike, crouching near the man's head to place a light set of fingers over the man's carotid. "What about those?" Stoker asked, pointing to the log bundles they had gathered for building a travois.

"Forget about it. The chopper should have its own stokes ready far faster than we can build one." Roy replied as he felt the effectiveness of Kelly's ventilations to the man with a hand on top of the sleeping bags.

"Glad they're fast." Mike said, checking to make sure the oxygen supply to Chet's cannula was still delivering.

"Me, too." said Chet, taking in another slow breath inside of his jacket to keep his breath warmed up.

The wind began to howl in earnest as the feeble heat of the day rose, blowing leaves and sun warmed tufts of grass around them. Then, in the distance, Roy heard the sound of rotor blades.

Raising his free hand, he fired off the first of their gun flares out over the river for Johnny and the others to see and take heed.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Animation: 240 Robert Air and Ground hurrying to the scene.

Photo: Roy working over a patient quickly, in closeup.

Photo: A steep river gorge with high water.

*
Subject: Gage, The Twit.
From: patti k () Sent: Fri 3/06/09 12:05 AM

Marco heard the bang of a flare gun start to echo around the river valley.
He looked up as he ran, eyeing its ruddy trail. "Cap, the others see or hear that ranger's chopper coming in."

Hank kept his eyes on the river, looking for pieces of kayak or clothing.
"Okay, start signalling with our mirror, let that pilot know how far up we've searched already."

Gage lifted his radio. "Tag 70 to 240-Robert Air. Our victim party has spotted you and is sending up signal flares."

##I see it and have them pinpointed.## Morgan replied back. ##But I'd like to take a minute to help you find that second victim. I can guide you in over trouble spots visually if I spot him.## she said.

Johnny paused near a boulder, catching his breath. Cap climbed up on top of it to keep searching the river. "Two minutes. No more. Then we need you to transport Victim One as a top priority."

##Understood. Coming over your location now and moving on. I'll 180 after the first minute runs out. Then I'll head back to your party's campsite.## Deputy Wainwright shared. ## Until then, I can cover a lot of ground for you. ##

Marco, Cap and Johnny ducked when a nimble black and white helicopter with bilateral stretcher bubbles shot around a corner in a roar of power.
Its rungs were barely a foot over the water as it sped up the river ahead of them, following the curves of the rapids, neatly dodging and weaving over them at high speed.

"Whoa, look at her go." Gage said in amazement as the chopper quickly disappeared upstream above the water.

Hank and Marco smiled and they picked up the pace again, headed in the helicopter's direction, too, along a snowdrifted sandbar.

Twenty seconds later, they received a transmission. ##240-Robert Air to 70.
I've got the second victim sighted! A male, about a 1000 feet upstream lying in a kayak near some rocks on your side of the river. But there's an obstacle.
There's a twenty foot waterfall between you and the height he's trapped on around the bend.##

Gage toggled the radio switch. "Is he accessible to us?"

Morgan circled once, sliding in closer to the falls. ##The cliffs leading to him look climbable. They have a solid, clean vertical with plenty of handholds.##

"Is he alive?" Gage asked.

Morgan shot up the cliff and hovered as low as she could over the kayak and man she could see floating upright in shallow water. ## His head's out of the water and his helmet's still on. That's all I can tell.## she said. ##There's no movement. No, wait! His leg just jerked.##

"Are you sure?" Johnny asked Morgan, biting his lip.

##Yes, very. He's in a calm pool. He wasn't moved by the water.
His color looks good but I'm seeing a lot of blood around his face and on his hands.##

"Okay, we're headed up there." Gage transmitted, tossing his rope coils to Cap and Marco to start tying free hitch harnesses around their waists and pelvises. "We've basic medical gear, enough to stabilize him for now."

##Roger that. I'll return as soon as I finish getting Victim One to the hospital.## she said, sliding carefully sideways, fighting strong wind gusts over the river.

Soon, Wainwright hovered over the injured kayaker. She toggled her loud speaker. ## This is Sheriff's Department Rescue. Help's on the way.## she told him. But there was no noticable physical response.

Morgan, unhappy, gained altitude and looked up to the road tracing along the top of the new gorge. She soon spotted 240 Robert speeding by the area on their way to the deer camp. ##240-Robert Air to 240-Ground. Stop right there and mark a tree to head back to later. You're right above Victim Two's location near the other firefighters.##

The sheriff paramedic jeep skidded to a halt in the dust and Thib got out with a can of bright orange trail blaze paint in a spray can. He marked a strong arrow riverwards on the road itself and then partially up a pine tree next to them. He waved to Morgan hovering over the river and gave her a rapid thumbs up enthusiastically.

Trap hit his mic. ##Thanks, Morgan. We're set. Moving on to Victim One#
he replied as his partner got back into the truck.

## I'll meet you there. ## And Morgan gained more height with a celebratory waggle to her partners and to Gage, Lopez and Stanley below before she nosed down and headed quickly downstream towards the deer camp.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stoker ran back to the meadow to guide 240-Robert Air in, showing her the upwind direction to nose into.

Morgan landed neatly in the center of the staked out grass and got out. "How's he doing?" she shouted over the chopper's rotors, still running hot.

Mike replied. "Still the same. Breathing's poor. How far away are your paramedics?"

"Less than three minutes out. I just spoke with them." she replied. "I'll go grab a stokes." she said, pointing tailwards.

"I'll help you." replied Mike. They both ducked low as they headed back to the chopper's equipment bay. "Do you have any more oxygen? We're almost out." he shouted.

"Yes, in the tank rack behind the pilot's seat." she told him loudly. "Two D's and an E. And good news.. We've found the second kayaker. He's still alive."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Trap and Thib raced up the road and turned sharply onto the dirt road leading to Tag 70's hunting camp. They parked a safe distance away from the landed,
but still running chopper.

It was empty.

"Looks like she's already gone down with them. A stokes is missing." said Dwayne, getting out of the truck and grabbing for his medbag from the back hatch of the rescue jeep. "I checked the Res-Q-Air. It's fully charged."

"Want the spare battery?" Applegate asked.

"Later. Let's get him started on this one first." Thib said.

Trap, pocketting the keys to the truck, grabbed the heating pack of I.V. solutions Thib had set up into insulated sleeves along with their drug box and EKG monitor.
He followed his orange coated partner carrying the warm oxygen ventilator device as they ran to meet Morgan and the California firefighters closely huddled over their unconscious, chilled patient. Trap thumbed his hand held walkie talkie. "Appalachia Base, we're on scene. Stand by for an update. I got you on speaker."

##Standing by.## replied Dr. Almstedt through the base station's telemetry intercom. ##Ready to receive a strip.##

Roy started talking all at once as the two sheriff paramedics joined them and began tearing into their gear. "He's still pretty ectopic. Two minutes ago, we almost lost a carotid. Dehydration's worse." Then he noticed the Res-Q-Air heater. "Hey, can that thing positive pressure ventilate?"

"Yep." Applegate replied. "Through an ambu bag. We'll start using it now to free up your friend." he grinned tightly at Chet, who still working through the pocket mask.
Trap turned to his younger partner. "Thib, after he's hooked up on EKG, could you get a core temp for the doc?"

"Tympanic?" the blond haired Dwayne asked.

"Sure, that's fine." Trap said. Then he turned to DeSoto. "You're one of the California paramedics?" he asked pointing at Roy. "Sorry, I forgot all your names."

"Yep, I'm one of them. I'm Roy, and this is Chet and Mike. My partner Johnny's upriver with two of my firefighter colleagues, Marco and Hank, headed for the second victim." replied Roy.

Mike offered a suggestion. "Got any more gear still stowed that you need?"

"Yeah." answered Thib. "In the back of the jeep. Grab the black defib and the red battery insulation cooler sitting next to it." He grimaced when he saw Mike take off running. "Ah, wait.. It's locked." Then he psst'd at Trap Applegate with a couple of gimme fingers. "Keys." he prompted.

Trap dug into his pocket and tossed them at Thib without looking up from reading the notes Roy had written down for vital signs. Thib caught them and retossed the key set over to Stoker who hurried off to the 240 team's rescue jeep.

Morgan propped up the shattered kayak somebody had retrieved and dug it lengthwise and upright into the melting snow to use as a windblock. "There. That'll prevent the chopper's propswash from reaching him anymore."

Then she eyed up Roy. "The second man looked injured. Very badly. I hope your people are pretty fast mountaineers."

"They are." Roy reassured her. He unzipped the kayaker's insulation cocoon a little for the new paramedics. Then he worked on learning how Thib was setting up the Res-Q-Air unit, handing him the cables and connectors that Dwayne pointed out to him to thread through insulation sleeves. "Reach in."

"Thanks, Roy." nodded Applegate, shoving both arms underneath the thick layers of sleeping bags, to listen to the kayaker's chest with a stethoscope's drum. "He still sounds clear. No rales. But his apical's getting pretty hard to find."

Thib negated that worry a second later. "That's just chest wall stiffness.
He's still got a rhythm." he announced as he flipped on the EKG's switch. Dwayne frowned. "Hmm, the pads aren't staying on."

Dr. Almstedt spoke up from the radio. ##Try a tincture of benzoin under the electrodes from your wounds kit. If that doesn't work, stab three 24 gauge needles into the skin through the pads. They'll hold then and the signal will carry through the needles to the conductive gel.
Don't worry about a getting twelve lead. What I'm seeing here in Lead II's good enough.## They all heard her sigh. ## Now,.. Fellas?
Crank up the QRS amplitude to maximum. I can't see any details.##

Thib did so.

## All right. Got it.## said Joanne. ## Profound bradycardia with an irregular ventricular rate of twenty. ##

"We see that here, too." Trap told the doctor.

"His carotid's starting to match that rate." Stoker said.

##How are his pupils?## Joanne asked.

"Responsive." replied Roy to the air.

##Get him assisted on aggressive warmed, humidified oxygen. And begin transfusing normal saline heated to 110 F infused centrally. 300-500 cc's rapidly, followed by 75-100 cc/hr. Use a jugular. ## Almsted ordered. ##What's his core temp?##

"84 F." Thib replied. "Might be higher, there's a lot of mud in his ears."

## Let's assume he's at that level. Try to endotracheally intubate him. If he slips into V-Fib at any time, shock him three times only, then start and continue CPR in transit. Avoid all cardiac medications in that event.
Those drugs will not be metabolized or cleared normally by the patient's liver and kidneys. If they were to be used, they would accumulate in his body and only become active as he warms up, possibly overdosing him. For now, I see pacing's not needed, his brady's probably physiologic in nature. It should correct itself once he's over 86 F or so. Keep me posted. I'll be on live the whole trip in.##

Stoker returned with the slim defibrillator and second battery bag for the Res-Q-Air. He set them by the three paramedics' sides.

"Here." said a voice in Kelly's ear, breaking his counting concentration.

Chet blinked at the steaming ambu bag Trap had handed him. "What?"
he mumbled in confusion at the strange jumble of mask, canvas covered squeeze bag, and orange sleeve covered tubes in his palms. The battery unit pump and reservoir it was attached to between Kelly's knees and the oxygen tank began to bleep operational readiness.
"Uh, ..maybe one of you should operate this new contraption instead."

Trap grinned. "It's okay."
"Just use the bag end like normal. The rest of the warmer'll give him continuous hot oxygen..." Applegate told him. "..and start thawing him slowly from the core on out. He'll get stronger very quickly."

"All right." Kelly said, pulling off his cannula and throwing away the CPR mask.
Stoker helped Chet begin to give ventilations to the man with the new delivery system, holding the warmed, misting mask in place while Chet squeezed the bag. The rhythm on the EKG monitor began to speed up immediately and even out. "Wow, this thing's wild." he said in amazement. "Are we doing that?" he asked Trap.

"Yep." Applegate grinned. "Isn't the Canadian navy wonderful? They just invented that lovely little warmer last year." he said, swabbing down a place on the man's neck to try a needle stick for his I.V. around the bundle of belted in clothes holding his head still. He got flashback on the second try. "Yes!" he said. "Thib, hand me that heated catheter on a flow."

"There you go." answered Dwayne, dripping some of the steaming saline he had heating, out the end of the sterile luer to bleed out all the air.

Trap snapped in the life giving fluid line firmly. "Tape it down while I hold it, Thib. Roy, can you add a Heparin flush to the port?"

"Yeah." DeSoto replied, reaching into the drug box. "You guys use five cc's?"

"Ten." Trap replied.

Stoker put on a soft cervical collar to protect the jugular I.V. when they were through securing and prepping it.

"Okay, now let's get that airway in.." DeSoto said, grabbing for an ET.

"I'll help with a light." Dwayne offered.

A few minutes later, Roy and Thib gave up attempts to intubate the kayaker after two tries in between manual hyperventilations from the respiratory warmer.

"D*mn it, he's still too cold. All his muscles are locking down." Dwayne said to Roy. He leaned over the radio in frustration. "Doc, the tube keeps freezing and breaking off at the phalange at tooth level." Thib told his boss. "We just snapped our second one."

##Skip it then.## said Joanne over the speaker. ##Go with what you had before with an OPA. It's not the fastest way to warm him, but us beggars can't be choosers. Boys, once you get him fluid loading solidly, get him the h*ll out of there!## Almstedt said, getting a little over-eager to fix their patient.

"We're on it." said Trap and Thib, grinning from ear to ear. "Morgan.. drag that stokes a little closer so we can get him into it. Sleeping bags and all. We've finally got in a good running line. We'll lift on three. Ready? 1-2-3, go!"
ordered Trap.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gage climbed the waterfall cliff carefully, foot by foot, as fast as he could go. The heavy weight of the rope tied around his waist made him glad he had shed his winter jacket, for the sun was baking the rocks into a lurid heat underneath his fingers, making his grip slick and precarious. He dug in his toes even deeper, guarding against his hands failing. He pressed his cheek into the limestone as chalk and melting snow drifted down. He coughed.

"Gimme more slack!" he shouted down to Hank and Marco, who were feeding him a rope line from the ground. He had one bad slip of a shoe but then, he rounded the top.

Swiftly, he tied off the end of his tether to a solid tree and he flicked the line so it rippled down the cliff in a signal. "I'm up! You're tied off. Come on up! Here's a second line as a backup." he shouted, still out of line of sight at the top of the waterfall. "I'm going on ahead."

"Got it!" said Cap from the base of the small cliff over the noise of the thawing waterfall.

Johnny hurried, sweating, towards the small pool the woman pilot had mentioned.
He dropped his medical pack and extra blankets into a pile in the sun and rounded a copse of yellow leaved trees.

There he saw the wounded kayaker, just starting to tumble face down into the water from his still floating, damaged boat.

Gage yelled in surprise and rushed, high stepping into the cold shallow water in an attempt to catch him before he disappeared from sight.

He failed.

A deep hole opened up under Johnny's feet and he plummeted into frigidness,
neck deep. The numbing icy water made him gasp in shock and he barely managed to hold his head above the waves as it subsided into a shuddering breath that was under his control again. Nerves on fire, Gage jerked into motion anyway.

Reaching out, Johnny lunged forward towards the tipped kayak in the next second, just catching the back of the man's shirt collar under his heavily cracked helmet, as it slipped beneath the surface, with a couple of fingers.

Locking his hands on either side of the man's ears, palms down, elbows up, to stabilize head and neck, Gage drew up the kayaker's face carefully back into the air in front of his chest. Johnny began shouting to the others as loudly as he could as he treaded in the cold water vigorously with just his legs to keep them both afloat.

"Hey! He fell in the water! Get up here as fast as you can and help me out!"

A floating iceberg hit his face, making him see stars. Johnny shook his head to clear it and spat out frozen silt. He spun around in the water to push away other ice chunks floating by, away from the man in his arms, using a free foot.

"Hurry up!" Gage coughed, struggling for space and air.

Marco and Hank shot up over the cliff's edge along the climbing rope and ran to Johnny's aid. "We're here!" Hank shouted. "Hang on!"
he said, peeling out of his hunting jacket.

Marco began to throw off his boots.

"No, don't come in! It's real deep by me and there's an undertow. I can feel it. Just lasso a rope around my upper body and pull us in. I got him firm, but I can't let go. Something's wrong with his spine." Gage gasped, shivering. "He's really crooked above the shoulders."

A sudden cramp bit into Johnny's side and made his head jerk forward. His chin hit the kayaker's shoulder before he could avoid it.

"AhHHh!" groaned the wounded young man at the light impact.

"Hey, mister? You felt that? Can you hear me?" Johnny asked, panting,
still keeping his arms locked tight around the man's head.

The man began to struggle, delirious, not completely awake.

"No, don't move!" Johnny told him. "We'll--"

One of the man's legs kicked, catching Gage in the stomach, hard. All the air left Johnny's lungs in a whoosh and he lost buoyancy.

Both of them went underwater just as a circle of rope shot out and splashed down around where they had been.

"Johnny?!" yelled Lopez.

Hank cursed and ran out to the end of the river sandbar in his shoes and all. He dove into the center of the circle of rope that he had just thrown, one hand catching its edge to drag it down into the depths with him.

Bubbles and chunks of dirty ice tumbled up from the bottom of the pool and soon, three heads emerged back into the sunlight, two of them coughing noisily. Gage and Stanley hung on tight as Marco snubbed the rope they had looped around themselves and the kayaker about a nearby stump as he hauled them back, hand over hand, to the sandbar.

"Okay, we're safe." Gage hollered up to him. "Get down here and help us hold him upright, while we climb out." Johnny said, still not letting go of the man's head and neck from the way he had first clamped onto him.

Stanley spoke from where he was wrapped tight in a bearhug around the kayaker's bloody shoulders. He was listening close to the man's back. "He's still breathing a little." he decided.

"How much?" Gage panted, beginning to shiver again.

"It's enough." Stanley coughed as Marco made his way down to them after tying off their rescue rope.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eventually, Cap, Johnny were back inside their winter jackets with their victim safely secured and out of the river. They had used the bottom of the shattered kayak as a long board and one of their ropes as a criss cross braided tie down. For lack of a headblock, they left the man's helmet in place, padding it off levelly with the rest of his body using a blanket and cut off only its fastened chin strap for easier airway monitoring and maintenance.

##What are his injuries, 70?## asked Almstedt, once communications had been reestablished.

Gage was mummied into a blanket of his own as he sat drying off against a hot rock against the cliff. He tried to speak without his teeth chattering. "Probable skull fracture and lower C7 involvement or dislocation, broken ribs on the left side. I can't find any holes. And a fractured right ankle. Also moderate--"

##...hypothermia. Got it. Popular theme in our patients today it seems#
Joanne sighed, watching another ranger team bringing in some campers suffering from chillblains into the hospital's emergency area. ##So you say he was conscious for a time and still had sensation below the cervical/thoracic notch after he fell into the water?##

"Yes, I accidently bumped his shoulder. He felt it." Gage said, watching Marco monitor the kayaker's breathing through the oral airway they had given him.

##That's a good sign. Maybe he didn't sever his spinal cord after all.
How are his vitals holding?##

"Pulse's 130 and thready. Respirations are twenty two and shallow.
BP palp'd is at least 80 at the brachial. I'd guess about a 1000 cc's blood loss due to cuts and abrasions about the f-face, head and n-neck."
Johnny grimaced angrily as he started shivering again. " And doc, all hemorrhaging's been a-addressed. There's no more ...uh... leaks. We found them all."

##Okay, and how are your vital signs?##

"Mine? Why? I'm f-fine."

##Truth now, Mr. River Jumper.##

"Okay. All right. I'm-I'm still shivering but normal." Gage told her. "Ma'am, believe me when I tell you, I'm not a flight candidate.." he told her very no-nonsense through tightly clenched teeth.

Cap finally tromped over and dumped another dry blanket on Johnny's head in irritation. "Would you get out of those wet clothes already?!" he hissed.

##I heard that. Do it now. Listen to your friend. My direct orders. ## Joanne drawled dryly. ## I'll still be here to give you an ETA on the next chopper when you get back.##

Johnny just sighed, set down the radio, and started stripping. Soon he was down to just skin.

##My kind of boy.##

Frowning, Gage startled, and turned the radio around on its rock.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Morgan Wainwright's hail came loud and strong through the radio a few minutes later. ## 240 Robert-Air to Appalachia Central. I'm on the way in with Victim Number One from Tag 70. I've a civilian paramedic and Trap on board with one firefighter.##

"Way to go Roy and Chet..." cheered Hank happily. He knew Stoker would choose to remain behind to either watch camp or to stow all their stuff back into the rover before insisting on accompanying the left behind 240-Robert's ground paramedic to his second rescue assignment with them. "Gage are you warm yet?"

"Getting there.." Johnny said from his naked, spread eagle place on the hot rock by the cliff base underneath the pile of blankets. "Marco, how's he doing?" he asked, his eyes watering from the direct sunlight.

"Okay, I think. Pulse's slowing.. and so's his breathing rate."

"Ah, not good." Johnny mumbled, staring at the sky from his refuge.
"Not with a head injury.." he mumbled. "Any JVD?" he asked, a little louder.

"What's that? Bladder and bowel loss?" Marco asked.

"No.. That's incontinence. JVD is when your blood pressure or intracranial pressure's high or if you have a certain kind of lung collapse going on. Your veins'll pop out at the neck when you breathe in, and sink back down again when you exhale,...if there's that kind of trouble." Johnny explained.

"Oh. Uh, let me see.. No there's nothing yet." Lopez reported, running a few fingers lightly over the arteries in the man's lower neck.

"Good. That's good." Gage said, letting his head clunk back down onto heated stone again. "Just keep tabs on him real close."

Cap, meanwhile, was clearing away the brush from the only column of clear sky that he had found through the heavy trees. Surrounding them, were more steep cliffs like the kind ringing the lower waterfall's valley where their deer camp was located. "Hey guys, I think I found the place." he said studying his perspective view straight up through tree limbs. "Yeah, I think a chopper cable can lower down through here, just fine."

"Yeah, but how's the wind up at the top?" Gage asked, getting sleepy and fighting it.

Cap squinted and analyzed the tree tops. His face fell. "Pretty bad.
There's a lot of twisting going on up there."

"G*d d*mn it.." Johnny cursed. "Had to be hard, didn't it? After all the trouble we had....... getting up here to rescue him?" he groused. "Aw, man."
Then he started coughing.

Hank frowned and wandered over to where Gage was lying on the boulder.
"How are you really doing?" he asked seriously, taking Johnny's pulse at his wrist.

"Uh,.. "

"You're getting cold again." he said sternly. "Slow pulse. Come here, pal. No, don't get up." And he dragged Gage by the ankles, blankets and all, down the big, flat boulder to a new hot spot.

"Ow! That's hot!" Gage said, arching up and cushioning his hands underneath his butt.

"Good, glad something's burning your *ss again. Now shut up, lie still, and conserve your body heat."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Kayak tipped over, guy underwater.

Photo: Morgan Wainwright reaching for medical gear from a chopper.

Photo: Deputy Paramedic Dwayne Thibideaux, close up.

Photo: 240 Robert- Ground paramedics climing a hill with medgear.

Photo: Johnny climbing a cliff in street clothes.

Photo: Man, falling out of a kayak.

Photo: Kayaker laid out on the rocks on his back, helmet on.

Photo: People wrapping up a guy into blankets.

Photo: Captain Stanley looking down, outside in sunlight.

Photo: Gage under a blanket on his back looking confused.

*************************************************** From: patti k Subject: Shake, Rattle and Roll.. Date: Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:58 pm Ken Baxter was just edging over into the lake valley when a new call came out.

##Appalachia Central, Bluebird Five.##

"Go Appalachia.." said, Ken, hefting up his radio mic.

##Marker 70 reports a second victim upstream four hundred yards above Kaaterskill Falls. An off duty paramedic is in attendance. 240 Robert Air is transporting Victim One, and will be 10-6 for twenty. Reroute to assess extrication by aerial cable from the head of the falls. 240 Robert Ground will rendevous.##

"I copy transmission. Heading to those coordinates now. Do you read transponder code activation?"

##10-4. Positional is 37 23.516 -122 02.625 easterly. Alert: Winds are building in your area. Gusts possible to 3-5.## replied the dispatcher.
##Radar indicates no squall.##

"Bluebird Five concurs and acknowledges. Will report when on hover,
over contact." Ken replied over the channel.

##Copy, Bluebird Five.##

Joey Collins shifted in his seat, staying quiet as he listened to the interchange between his pilot and the ranger base. When Ken finally nosed the chopper away from the broad lake, he spoke.
"It's bad, isn't it?" the boy asked.

Baxter kept the calm smile on his face. "Not necessarily. We've only been called in to scout things ahead of time for a climbing team. Nobody's dying or the dispatcher would have pushed up our response time with a real sharp hint or two."

Joey eyed up Ken thoughtfully. "There's not much you can do anyway.
There's no place to land."

Baxter nodded ruefully, and mumbled under his breath. "Ain't that the truth?"

-
In 240 Robert Air, Roy DeSoto worked quickly with Thibideaux to keep the first kayaker stabilized. "What are his core temp and vital signs now?" he asked Dwayne, the sheriff/paramedic.

Thib looked up from his detailed exam that he had just completed.
"93.2 F. His carotid pulse is 40, strong and regular, pupils are constricted but still equal and reactive to light. Monitor's nonspecific bradycardia."

Chet Kelly looked up from his work with the heated, humidified bag valve mask. "Respirations on his own are 8 and shallow. I'm keeping him at twelve manually."

"Keep it easy.." Roy cautioned him. "We don't want him to warm up too fast."

Dwayne eyed up DeSoto where he was listening to the quality of breaths going into their patient with an amplified stethoscope. "Worried about afterdrop?"

"The thought did come to mind.." Roy admitted, pushing the warmed I.V. fluid into the drip chamber a little faster.

Thib bit his lip. "Chet, uncover his legs... slow the heat building up there."

Just as Kelly was doing so, the kayaker arched up into a back breaking but rigid convulsion, sighing deeply in new, ugly gasps. Luckily, the backboard straps held him down. "Is he waking up?" Chet yelled, fighting to keep the steam at least on blow by over the man's mouth and nose.

"Yes." both Dwayne and DeSoto said together.

Roy ordered. "Chet, keep him oxygenating."

Dwayne leaned down low and pulled out the man's oral airway and suctioned out the limp, drooling mouth around Chet's mask. "Sir.." he asked near an ear.
"Can you hear me at all? Easy. You're in good hands. We've found your buddy and he's alive. Try and open your eyes. Can you do that for me?"

The man's loud, noisy breathing gained strength and vigor and his whole body spasms suddenly relaxed as his eyes rolled. He gurgled vocally. Kelly held the bag of warm steam over the man's nose and mouth without squeezing it anymore and some fluid drained out. The kayaker moaned and grabbed his chest.

Roy and Dwayne propped up their patient's backboard and headblock onto a stack of blankets to ease his breathing. "Spit it out. We got you." DeSoto said, helping Thib get the suction wand around the man's shivering teeth. "Mister, do you know what happened to you today?" he asked as the man began to grope the air purposefully with shivering fingers as he fought back to consciousness.

The man coughed, proving his throat was finally clear. He tried to swipe the hissing, heated Res-Q-Air mask away from his face clumsily with both hands.
Thib dissuaded him.
"Nope. Leave that alone. It's just some warm oxygen. You need it." said Dwayne, gently restraining the man with crossed wrists over the man's chest. "You're doing fine. Do you know who we are?"

The man finally opened his damp, bleary eyes.. "Rangers?" he guessed.

All three rescuers in the chopper smiled. "Yes. We're paramedics and we pulled you from the river." said Roy. "Do you hurt anywhere?"

"I'm really...c-cold.." shivered the man. Then his body arched up into another involuntary convulsion. The kayaker was aware enough to be frightened by it. He shouted inarticulately.

Thib grabbed his shoulders.
"Relax,.. just try to relax! Those are cramps from being chilled too much. They'll go away in a few minutes. Keep taking deep breaths on that steam mask, okay?" Dwayne shouted. "Hey... Can you hear me?"

But the man was lost in his seizure and soon fell unconscious at the height of it.

"Help him on the in's, Chet." Roy told Kelly. "Until it's over. I'll put in a toothguard to keep him open."

Chet worked carefully, getting in a few deep ventilations.

The kayaker fell still and quiet, his heart beating quickly from stress.

"What's going on back there?" Morgan Wainwright shouted from the open glass cockpit, just in front of their horizontal stokes.

"His temp's dropping again." Thib told her.

"I'll let Appalachia know." she said, toggling her radio mic relaying to the ranger base hospital. "240 Robert-Air to Appalachia. We're encountering a patient setback. I'm increasing speed."

##What's the nature of the problem?## Dr. Almstedt asked.

"Falling core temp." Morgan told her.

##10-4, we have peritoneal dialysis and an extra-corporeal blood warming bypass team standing by.## Joanne replied calmly.

Roy and Thib worked hard to heat up the blankets and I.V. fluids with packs.
But there was no change in the kayaker's mental status even after a few minutes of aggressively pumped in breaths on the steamed O2 ventilator.

"Is the battery going dead?" Dwayne asked Roy, eyeing up the Res-Q-Air unit.

"How can you tell?" Roy shot back, worried.

"The amp needle on the indicator at the back.." Thib told him. "It should be in the green."

"It's red." Roy replied.

"Then the power's losing output. Hang on. I'll switch it out."

Morgan shouted over the noise of her chopper's rotary props.
"We're clearing the final ridge of mountains. I'll have us landed in four minutes!" she updated everyone. The chopper buffeted, jolting in a sudden side wind. Wainwright compensated nimbly, keeping them steady.
"Now where did that come from?" she mumbled to herself, moving her other gloved hand onto the flight stick. ::Huh. Completely clear skies all the way around us. Now why isn't it smooth sailing up here?:: she wondered.

As if in reply, the helicopter gave a shudder as another series of wind gusts shook them, like a dog with a rag in its teeth. They filled the chopper with the distinct tang of salt.

::Clever ocean breeze? Not today.:: Wainwright smirked mentally.

Protectively, Morgan gained altitude.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bluebird Five pitched and yawed skillfully over mountain ridges and over tree tops like a falcon.

"Almost there, young man." Ken told Joey Collins. "Make sure your seatbelt's fastened tightly. When we get near the ground the wind'll get rough, you hear? I don't want you rattling out of your helmet to the point where I have to grab your shirt to hold you still."

"Yes, Mr. Baxter."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Ken Baxer, flying a nimble chopper.

Photo: Joey Collins in a flight helmet.

Photo: Roy DeSoto working over an unconscious person.

Photo: Morgan Wainwright looking down in 240-Robert Air.

Photo: Sheriff/Paramedic Dwayne Thibideaux treating someone, looking worried, closeup.

Photo: A man, wrapped in a shock sheet, being tended.

Photo: A closeup of a helicopter's rotary blades in flight.

*
Subject: Nature.. From: patti k () Sent: Mon 3/23/09 12:59 AM

Their rescue helicopter banked over a tall ridge and headed east toward the distant river and its small waterfall. Beech and pine trees bending in a breeze over a mountain top alerted Ken to a change.

"Holy mackerel. It's a microburst." the Baxter chuckled as he stabilized Bluebird Five's altitude.

"But where are the storm clouds?" Joey radioed back through his foot toggle and headset.

"Doesn't have to be any this close to the ocean. Daytime heating and cooling are enough to make 'em happen this time of year.
Hang on, we'll try entering their valley from the north." Ken told him.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In 240-Robert Air, Thib straightened up from reconnecting a new battery to the Res-Q-Air ventilator. "Okay.. it should get back up to operating temperature in a few seconds." he told Roy.

"Chet, how's his seal?" DeSoto asked.

"Fine." answered Kelly, holding the ventilator mask firmly over the kayaker's mouth and nose. "Still good chest rise when I help him out."

"He should be improving." Dwayne frowned, checking and rechecking the respiratory tube and insulation coat leading from the small heated oxygen ventilator machine to Kelly's mask. "We fixed the problem." he said, frustrated. Then he asked. "What's he at?"

Roy reached down and got another tympanic temperature reading with the helicopter's scanner. "90.3 F. Let's bump up his I.V. Maybe he's out because he's getting seriously hypovolemic with that polyuria." DeSoto turned the drip chamber to wide open after marking down its starting volume and the time on a chart. "Line's still patent into that vein at.... 110 degrees."

"That's just where the doc wants it." Dwayne grunted, thinking. He finally pursed his lips. "Huh...I'll check for a peripheral B.P. so we know what it is for sure." Thibideax nodded. "He should have one showing up in his legs by now. They're almost warm to the touch."

"Here." said Roy, handing him a thigh cuff.

Thib worked swiftly, listening with his stethoscope. Then he looked up. "Yep, he's low volume. 80/62." he reported.

"From afterdrop?"

"No, his arms and legs are still pale. Nothing's dilated circulatory wise here yet." Dwayne replied.

"Second I.V.?" DeSoto suggested.

"Yeah. I'll get one ready." Thib agreed quickly, running his hands over the kayaker's stomach in a check. "Belly's still soft."

"So, no large internal hemorrhaging inside."

"Nope." Dwayne said. "There's still no bruising anywhere." he exasperated.

Roy toggled his chopper helmet's talk button. "Morgan, notify the doc that we've begun forcing fluid. He's getting real volume shocky."

##I'll get on it.## Wainwright replied. ##We're two minutes out from the park hospital. And I just heard Bluebird Five. She's been confirmed by Base, as heading directly for the second victim to scout out good air access there.##

Thib nodded, signalling Morgan over the noise of flight with a hand gesture. Then he turned to Roy. "I'm going I.O." he said,
grabbing for a bone gun package. He bit it open.

"What?" DeSoto blinked, not comprehending.

"Intraosseus. It's a new thing. A needle cath into bone marrow."
Thib replied, tearing off the sterile paper from the tool.

"Where?" Roy asked dubiously.

"Top of the shin, below the knee cap. It'll be very stable." Dwayne grinned. "And we can push. A lot." he said of fluid loading.

DeSoto raised his eyebrows, impressed. "Whoa. Walk me through."

"Watch. It's easy." He uncovered the kayaker's leg and turned it sideways. "Swab that down." he said. "Right along the front of the bone."

Roy did so.

Now Dwayne reached for the blue drill gun sitting on its wrap and fitted it with a round snub, bearing a thick, one inch needle bore. "You feel one finger width medial to the tibial tuberosity, right below the knee cap,
on the big toe side. See that groove?" he said, landmarking the spot with sterile gloved fingertips.

"Yep." Roy replied, holding up a flushing syringe of saline, prepped and ready.

"Set the driver ninety to the bone." he said, carefully angling the lancet into position. Then he triggered the gun.

*Bang!* it went.

"Now it's in." Thib shared, holding the embedded cap's cover with a thumb while he unscrewed the gun nozzle from the cath circlet. "You just remove the stylet, and test the flow with the flush catheter syringe extension set. Like this." he demonstrated. "See how the blood's welling up through the hub?"

"It's slow."

"Ah, don't let that fool you. The space under there, inside, is a bottomless pit.
Just aspirate a little bit of it, as the marrow's thick, to create some room."

"What about pain when he wakes up?"

"There's only some when I'm injecting or drawing up. A ten mil bolus of lidocaine into the marrow will handle it for hours. And punching through the skin's nothing. It's so thin. There's no muscle in the way." He delivered the medication. Then he wiped up with a sterile 4x4 and connected their second flowing, hot saline I.V. line.

Then pointing, Thibideaux gestured. "Now try to rock that."

Roy looked down at the disc of plastic embedded into the shinbone with its small vertical shaft tube, and grabbed hold of it. He tried to move it.

It didn't budge.

DeSoto made a small sound of amazement. "No tape's needed there."

"That's the beauty of it. And we can dump in as much as we want. There's no venous resistance getting in the way. It's all porous. Like a sponge.
And no risk of embolus at all." he said, recovering up the leg to keep it warm.

"Wow." said Roy, dialing up the new line to wide open.

"You want these for your fire department?" Dwayne asked.

"Is fire hot?" Roy gaped, still tickled.

"I'll send some out for your docs to play with. The manufacturer's free licensing."

"What's it called?" DeSoto said, picking up the used gun to study it in detail.

"EZ-IO." Thib coined.

"Perfect name." Roy chuckled. "This'll catch on like wildfire back at home."

Chet made a noise and shifted uncomfortably from where he was sitting at the man's head.

"What?" Roy asked him.

"Eoowww." Kelly shivered. "You just darted a man's shin bone."

"That bothers you?" DeSoto asked with a smile, surprised.

"Duhhh. When was the last time you hit yourself with a hammer in the leg?" Chet scoffed right back.

Soon, the kayaker awoke as his temperature responded to the newly recharged humidified oxygen and the additional fluid he was being given.

Then Dwayne, Chet and Roy had their hands full managing him as best they could through another series of involuntary muscle spasms that were an improvement over the earlier convulsions.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Ken Baxter circled in the air high over the juxtaposition of three adjoining mountain ridges fringed with tall, twisted weather warped pine trees. "Okay, we're toeing the line. Ready to get down to business?" he asked Joey.

Collins grinned, and rechecked his seatbelt and helmet strap buckles. "Yeah. Will there be bad turbulence coming up?"

"More than a bit I suspect, but I'll bring us over those firefighters by the waterfall nice and easy." Baxter told him.

"Then I'm ready when you are." the boy said firmly, still gripping his navy hat.

"So,..." Ken said, popping his lips. "You aren't nervous?"

"Why? Should I be?"

"Well, yeah." Baxter countered. "You aren't flying this beast."

Joey just rolled his eyes. "Mr. Baxter, you're older than me by a whole elephant's lifetime. So if you haven't learned something about helicopters in all your years yet, I'm a girl." he said.

Ken just studied Joey's face and harrumphed skeptically, staring at him. "Thanks for that seal of approval, kid."

"Don't mention it. Now let's get going yesterday, okay? There's a hurt guy down there." Joey said, drumming both palms on the curving glass windshield in front of his window crushed nose.

"We're gone!" crowed Ken, and he flipped Bluebird Five over into a sharp descent to slice under the prevailing winds.

"WahhhWHHHOoooo!" said Joey, feeling his stomach leap into his throat as they shot down into the right valley.

When they had levelled off, the boy looked up from his grip on the windshield. "How far now?"

Ken waggled his head, thinking as he flew.
"Oh, we're about three miles away from the rescue site. All we have to do is follow these cliffs in a line that leads straight to them. The river's coming up just ahead around this b-"

A sharp strike of something heavy on the windshield on Joey's side spidered it with an impact crater the size of a grapefruit. The boy flinched.

Ken ducked, too, at the noise and jerked the flight stick sharply to the right. "Wind debris! Hang on!"

He lurched Bluebird Five away from the limestone cliff face, dipping quickly towards an open space to gain some distance away from the danger.

But more rocks bounced off of the helicopter's roof in loud reverberations in a cloud of dust.

"What th--" Baxter blurted, ducking again. Thinking fast,
he tried to gain altitude to get higher than the cliffs as he continued to angle away.

"What's hitting us?" Joey gasped.

"Rocks! We must have run into a dust devil! We're getting out of--"

*Thud!* came a strong hit above. With a jolt, the rotor assembly over their heads protested in a loud shriek of metal and the sound of the chopper's engine began to miss. A small piece of a flight blade tip floated away in a puff of dust and clay from pulverized stone, like a tossed ruler.

"Oh, crud." said Ken. "I was afraid of that happening!"
Bluebird Five groaned and slipped into an uncompensated slow spin as Ken fought to control her. "We're going down now! Joey, help me look for a landing place! Ughh!" he grunted, fighting the control stick's wild gyrations.

"Ken?!" Joey panicked. "I can't see anything! My window's all--"

They both screamed when Joey's window blew out, sucking out papers and every loose object aboard, including the boy's forgotten navy cap.

"Cover your face! Cover your--" Baxter shouted, throwing up his arms.

CRASH!

Bluebird Five struck sudden pine tops and lurched to a halt, snagged on swishing, snapping breaking boughs of pitch pungent wood. Its tail sagged downwards as the nose of the rescue craft clung to a tree. Baxter flicked all power off, ceasing ignition and rpms. "Good enough for me! These are soft! Hold on, kid! We're gonna slide backwards here. Whatever you do,
don't tense up!" he shouted aloud.

Joey screamed again as the helicopter went vertical, plunging groundwards, partially cushioned by pine boughs and splintering trunks in nauseating stop-and-starting falls. They were cradled sickeningly for long moments, then dropped when pine limbs broke under their sudden weight.

Both pilot and boy clung to their seats' arms as they fell, staring up at the crystal clear blue sky whirling above them. A last brown tongue of the departing dust devil spat down sand in buffy curly Q's into their faces.

Then Bluebird Five disappeared from view into the belly of the forest.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"So..." Stanley grunted as he pegged a look at Gage, who was now suffering a case of healthy shivering inside of his three ski jackets, a hat, and multi layered pants. "Muscles back I gather?" he asked.

"Yep." Johnny replied, carefully returning to their waterfall rescued victim.

"Good. Glad that turned around." Then Cap looked up at the sky once again and glanced at his watch. "That's odd."

"What is?" Gage asked, crouching by Marco who was wrapping insulating layers around their patient. Everything that could be splinted, had been.

"Just how far away are we from Park Headquarters again?"

"Uh, about seventeen miles I'd guess." Johnny replied, taking a pulse on the injured kayaker.

"That's about right." said Lopez.

"Then what's the hold up on the rescue chopper coming to scout us out? It should have already blasted in over our heads five minutes ago."
Stanley reasoned.

His scowl now matching Cap's, Johnny toggled the radio. "Tag 70 to Appalachia Central. Do you have a new E.T.A. on our chopper?"

There was a startled squawk from the handheld. ##We've received a non-comm. Investigating the situation. We are rerouting 240 Robert Air after her patient drop off, to your location.##

"10-4." Gage shrugged. "Tag 70 out." Then he studied Cap's suddenly lined face. "I've got a real bad feeling, Cap."

"Yeah." Hank said, rubbing his lips thoughtfully. "Me, too. Can't see any chopper being tardy for anything."

"How many are on board?" Johnny wondered.

"Two, if I remembered the radio chatter that came from dispatch earlier right."

"Ah, man.. It just gets better and better." Gage groused. "Well at least,
he's holding his own." he said, throwing his head down at their patient. "Pulse's slowing, but still steady." he reported.

"Brain swelling?" Marco asked.

"Yeah. Let's hope not too fast before our mannitol gets here."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Roy, Thib and Chet helped Morgan Wainwright unload their patient from the bubble stokes access on 240-Robert Air. They were met by Joanne Almstedt, Terri Blake and Paul Carnes who intercepted them in the parking lot with two other nurses.

"How's he doing?" Nurse Terri Blake asked, peering at the kayaker's face from the stokes they had placed onto a wheeled gurney.

"He's conscious. Still no signs of blunt injuries." said Roy.

"We'll take over from here." said Joanne. "I'd like you to get back to the second victim, if you'd care to, as fast as possible."

Paramedic Carnes, the park ranger captain, said more. "Your friend's reporting multiple trauma on him."

"Be glad to." DeSoto told them, handing the lady doctor his notes on Victim One.

Dwayne accepted a second Res-Q-Air Terri handed him from a supply basket underneath the gurney. "It's charged.." she told him.

"Thanks." Thib said to her. Together, he, Roy and Chet ran fast to where Morgan was keeping her chopper running hot and got back on board.

A quick slamming of hatches and doors and they were off again, rotating swiftly on tail blades, rising high into the late morning mist.

Morgan turned in her seat once the three had redonned their radio helmets.
"I've got a situation. Our other rescue helicopter just dropped off the radar."

"Did they crash?" Chet Kelly asked.

"Or they were forced down due to mechanic error." Morgan hoped.

Dwayne began a hail on hand held band to Bluebird Five.
He looked up a minute later.

"This isn't like Ken at all. He hasn't radioed out yet." Thib worried,
eyeing up his live but silent radio. "He's a good pilot."

"One of the best." Morgan agreed, nervous, as she flew back to the waterfall valley.

Roy tried to calm them. "We'll see what we can do once we get there."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Paramedic rangers working with a stokes by a chopper.

Photo: Roy reaching down amid ropes.

Photo: A red chopper crashing into a cliff face.

Photo: Ken Baxter, hurt and muddied on the ground.

Photo: Joey Collins, unconscious, on his back.

Photo: Terri Blake, in her ranger's outfit and hat.

Photo: Cap, kneeling, concerned, outside.

Photo: Joanne Almstedt examining a boarded man.

Photo: Johnny Gage looking tense in a small space. *
Subject: Up and Down.
From: patti k () Sent: Sat 4/04/09 3:58 AM

Cap reported his new developments, knowing that the ranger station fully expected to be kept up to date on all events at his rescue site.

He eyed up Johnny still trying to hide active shivering underneath his layers where he crouched over the back and head injured kayaker.

##Tag 70, Appalachia Central....## Hank radioed in.

"Go." replied Park Ranger RN Terri Blake on hand held, directly from the active treatment area where the first kayaker was being cared for by a whole hospital team. She watched Dr. Almstedt feverishly check and recheck a centrally laid I.V. line and rewarming lavage tube she had just surgically placed in her anesthetized patient.

Captain Paul Carnes was trying not to watch, shielding his eyes, as he listened in to Terri's audio.

Blake glared at him. "You're a paramedic for Pete's sake.." she said.

"So? We don't do any of...of that..out in the field." Paul said, cringing in the willies.

"Think of it as just a hot water tube." she shrugged as Stanley began reporting again through her handy talkie speaker.

"But it's going into his..his-.."

"...innards. Yes, I know. He needs rewarming. Bad. If it really bugs you that much, go pull a curtain between us."

Carnes resolutely ignored the suggestion and curled an ear down with a finger in a strong hint for her to listen up to their current business.

##....and my man got a little too cold. His coordination's still a little off.##

"Have you wrapped him up, too?" Terri asked.

##Yeah. But he's being mule headed and climbed off the sun rock we parked him onto to warm up. Still arguing about it.##

"Can't force him to comply with care if he wants to work. I know how stubborn paramedics can get." she said, rolling her eyes at Paul.

Next to her, Carnes smacked her in the shoulder. Hard.

"Ow..." Terri told him, keeping her finger off the talk button. She smacked him back.

From the patient cubicle, Joanne glanced up from her fast stabilization.
"Kids..." Almstedt warned.

"Sorry." Terri and Paul both said aloud. Blake thumbed the radio.
"Tag 70. Keep an eye on him. Watch for signs of afterdrop. That active mouth will end pretty fast if his core temp falls any more.
I'll let the incoming rescue team know."

##Thanks. I think I'll go sit on him.## Hank growled in frustration.

"That works. Keep us posted." Terri chuckled.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

**(Portions of the 240 Robert characters' dialogue and the action following is taken from the 240 Robert TV series pilot, Apology. First Aired August 28, 1979 Writer : John Furia Jr. with Story by Rick Rosner)**

Trap drove to the blaze Thib had spray painted earlier and shot out of the rescue jeep, just as 240 Robert Air sailed in to land close by in a grassy clearing.

He rushed over to the waterfall ravine's clifftop and peered over the edge. He saw three hunter types over a horizontal body that was splinted up the wazoo.

"Hey! Are you all right?!" Trap shouted down to the California firefighters monitoring their patient.

"Yeah!" Cap shouted.

"How many below?!" Applegate yelled even louder as Morgan kicked the helicopter into high standby mode on full. He only half noticed Thib, Chet and Roy piling out of the chopper. He saw them begin to run for the rescue jeep.

"Tw--" Hank began, cupping his hands over his mouth.

Johnny interrupted Cap's answer sharply. "One! Probable skull and lower C7. Broken left ribs, no holes. Fractured.. r-right ankle. Low temp.." his voice said, echoing up the seventy foot cliff that separated them.

Trap frowned, studying Gage's face thoughtfully. ::He's lying to me about himself.:: he thought. ::Sounds like his voice's slurred.:: Applegate waved down to them and ran back to the dirt road.

Back at the rescue jeep, Thib made fast preparations.

"Okay, Morgan. Could you get my med pack for me?" Dwayne asked as he pulled over his climbing gear bag and hastily got into its harness ties and climbing hitches.

"Sure." she said, running to a side door. She let Chet dig through the rescue jeep for more blankets to toss down to his friends. She helped him pile them into his arms.

Then Kelly took off for the cliffs, fast. DeSoto lingered behind to get news.

Trap reported to Thib. "The paramedic's down on the ledge, not yet hurting too badly from the cold. Appalachia says these men pulled the kayaker off the river bottom. They've reported in that he can move but hasn't moved since they got him out..... There's no one else."

"Good." Dwayne nodded, still hurrying through his climbing gear and communications equipment self checks. He pulled on a red helmet.

"How about giving them both a quick check after you get down there to see for sure what we got here?" Applegate suggested.

Thib bobbled his head in full agreement.

"Boy, I tell ya. This wind is going to be a problem." Trap declared, watching the pines around them swish violently around them. He thumbed Dwayne on the shoulder encouragingly and moved off a little ways away from the noise of the helicopter to report their arrival.

Thib accepted Morgan's help with sliding on an orange paramedic pack onto his back over the climbing harnesses he had tied on with carbiners and a dead man's stop. Then he took up a two hundred foot coil of climbing rope and ran over to the cliff top's actively wind blown and dusty edge.
He squinted through the flying sand once they got there.

Roy joined him, too, partially covering his eyes to protect them. "How is he doing now?" he asked about Johnny as he set up some oxygen for the kayaker that Morgan had handed to him. He strung out a mask and tested the valve for flow.

"Trap says he's cold, and probably denying it." Thib replied.

"Yeah, it'd be just like him to do that." Kelly told them. "Cap put his foot down a few moments ago. They're wrapping Gage up now with the blankets I just threw down to them."

"Here, I'll put this in your pack." DeSoto said, placing the small oxygen cylinder into a side pocket of Dwayne's gear. "It's all set up."

"Thanks." Thibideaux arched an arm out widely in a gesture and the others backed off to give him room.

"Hey! I'm gonna throw a rope. Then I'll come right down to you!" Dwayne told Marco, Gage and Hank at the bottom.

"Okay.." Hank said, watching them. Gage was nearby, panting on a rock, finally accepting a seat Marco insisted he take.

"On rappel!" Thib shouted to Morgan.

"Ready." she said, keeping a glove on the guide line that they had tied off to the rescue jeep's power winch housing.

Another sheriff's paramedic rescue jeep pulled up next to 240 Robert 2 and two men got out, one, in a park ranger's outfit. They hurried over to the others' sides to help them man the rappel lines and provide more radio coverage for the rescue effort.

Thib stepped over the edge and began a slide down, bouncing off the cliff with his feet, the rope humming through his gloves as he descended.

Dwayne was almost to the bottom when there was a commotion by the rock. Marco shouted as Johnny suddenly noodled off the boulder, down to his knees.

Hank yelled. "Grab him!" But he didn't leave the kayaker's head where he was listening to the man's erratic breathing, a new change.

Thib thumbed the radio mic that was hooked onto his shoulder through an epaulet. "Whoa, whoa, topside! Our second man's in trouble. Hold on while I get a status!" He leaped to the bottom of the gorge and unhooked himself from the line, hurrying over to Johnny.

"Lopez, I need you over here." Stanley said gently. "This guy's getting dyspneic."

Dwayne nodded at Marco. "I got him. Just go." he said, reaching for Gage's shoulders."Okay, I'm gonna set you down." he told Gage. He didn't resist Johnny's limp slump onto his stomach, as he helped him ease to the ground. Then he looked up at Lopez. "I'll be right over there with you guys. I promise."

Marco left reluctantly.

Thib bent close over Johnny's back. "Hey, can you hear me?" He saw that Gage had fainted, lightly. His skin was very cold.

##Thib, this is Ted Cassidy, do you need assistance?## barked his radio.

Thib tipped up Johnny's forehead, where he was lying face down, to open his mouth.

##We see your man down.## C.B Harris added from above.
##Do you need another team?## Ted Cassidy asked again at the same time.

Thib glanced up and signalled a wait gesture.

Gage startled then and shook himself awake, sucking in air painfully as he began to shiver again, powerfully. He mumbled..."..hey, isn't that--?.."

Thib smiled, glad for the return to consciousness.
"The Sierra guys? Yeah, they flew out from Yosemite last week to train with us and work with our helicopter. Sort of like the training you guys are gonna get with the ARFF crew at the airport." Dwayne told him amicably as he set a layer of wool over Johnny's head using one of jeep's blankets. "How are you doing? What hurts?" he asked.

"N-Nothing. Nothing... I just took too long of a s-swim..." Gage shook, his teeth chattering.

"Curl up. We'll get you steaming before you know it."
Thib patted his back companionably as he brushed some hair away from a few scratches that the river ice had left behind. He responded on radio to his impatient partners at the top. "Trap, he's fine. He's got multiple cuts and abrasions. He's gonna be okay. But I wanna winch him up."

Trap transmitted. ##Okay, C.B.'s set on the winch. Ted and I are coming down to assist you below.##

Dwayne left Gage in a ball of blankets and hurried over to the kayaker's side.

Ranger Ted Cassidy and Deputy Trap Applegate, laden with another medical pack, reached the bottom of their ropes a minute later.

Cassidy went to help belt in Johnny for a winch walk up the cliff.

"Down cable!" hollered Morgan from above.

"Down cable..." Ted confirmed, getting ready to receive the metal tether from a rescue jeep moved near the edge. He kept Johnny talking. "So, what are you guys doing in winter wonderland? Gage, I thought you hated the snow." he said, nestling up under Johnny's arm and shoulder to raise him to his feet once Gage nodded that he was ready to go.

"No b-bears here.." Gage joked, smiling tiredly as he winced in discomfort.

Marco fled the kayaker as soon as Thib and Trap took his place and he returned to fuss over Gage's layers. "Johnny?"

"I got a little lightheaded, Marco. That's all." Gage reassured Lopez, trying to keep his eyes focused. "Everything's cool."
"No, just you are." Marco frowned. "Your hands are pure ice."

"The climb'll invigorate me." he grinned. "Really. I'm not that bad. See?" and he wiggled all of his fingers. "I just moved some cold blood where I shouldn't have yet, too soon."

Cassidy groped for Johnny's carotid. "Your pulse's slow, but still regular. Lucky for you, your acidosis is minor." he said, letting him go, chiding.

"I knew I wasn't gonna crash. I'm a paramedic. I can tell!" Johnny complained.

"Now that, Marco, my friend, is a sign that Gage's warming up fast. Nobody frozen can argue up a storm like this. He's safe to ambulate." Ted joked.

Lopez scoffed happily, relieved.

Johnny sobered as he remembered more of where he was. "How's our other guy d-doing?" he asked of the kayaker as he watched Ted belt him onto his own carrying harness.

Cassidy glanced over his shoulder. "I don't know. They're still taking a close look at him over there."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cap helped the sheriff paramedics put a C-collar around the kayaker's neck. "He doesn't seem as cold as the first victim."

"Probably because he wasn't wet that long." Trap replied.

"But neither was Johnny. Why was he effected so much?" Hank asked.

"He never got time to get used to the winter weather. This guy did."

"That doesn't explain me."

Thib shrugged when he finally noticed that Hank's hair was dripping river water. "You're bigger in size. You've got more body mass and internal heat."

Thib placed a hasty oropharyngeal airway into the kayaker's mouth once he was sure he had suctioned out the new blood Cap and Marco had been draining. "Trap, he's in bad shape. We've got to get him out quick."

"What else have you found?" Trap asked Dwayne.

"Looks like a broken back for sure. Lots of contusions, bruises. Dehydrated. He might be on the verge of checkin' out."

"Coma?" Applegate asked.

"Yeah."

"Want to start an I.V.?"

"Yep. Lactated Ringers and D5W." Thib replied.

"Right." said Trap. Then he lifted his radio. "240 Air?"

##Nearby..## Morgan responded instantly, alert.

"We're gonna need a litter and a backboard. The winds are wild. Think you can bring it in?" Applegate asked her.

##I'll try. Where do you want me to put it?## asked Wainwright.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Meanwhile, outside Morgan's chopper, Ranger Harris radioed down to his guest work partner. ##Ted, I'll be back in five, I'm going to help Morgan drop a litter.##

Ted replied back. "10-4." he said, steadying himself and Gage against the cliff face at the bottom. "We'll be ready to ascend after that. We're just waiting for Gage here to find his land legs."

"Don't rush me.." Johnny chuckled, laughing at his own clumsiness.
"I'm still working on it. Geez."

-
Trap answered Morgan. "Anywhere we can reach it."

##Gotcha.##

Thib glanced up at Cap. "Put that I.V. under his shoulder to keep it under pressure. Keep it warm." Thib said to him.

"Yep." Stanley answered.

Applegate fitted the oxygen mask over their patient's face quickly.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

C.B. left the winch in Chet's capable hands and jumped on board 240 Robert Air. Harris left his passenger flight door swinging open so he could dangle a rope down free hand that was attached to the light-weighted orange stokes stretcher that he had pulled out of the chopper's bed bubble receptacle.

He anchored his feet firmly to the chopper's side runner rung as Morgan took off with him and the stretcher.

Once they were over the cliff, he began to feed down the litter,
foot by roped foot.

Then a sharp gust of wind nearly jerked his arms out of their shoulder sockets as it swept the litter sideways violently. "Ah!!" C.B. cried out.
"Better back off! I can't hold it!!" Harris grimaced.

Panicking, Morgan locked down on the flight stick.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: RN Ranger Terri Blake, grinning mischieviously.

Photo: Paramedic Captain Ranger Paul Carnes, insistent, with a mic.

Photo: Cap on a radio, talking, tense.

Photo: Sheriff's pilot Morgan Wainwright grabbing medical gear.

Photo: Deputy paramedic Trap Applegate, yelling down a cliff.

Photo: Deputy paramedics Trap and Thib gearing up by a rescue jeep.

Photo: Mountain geared Thib checking out a blacked out Johnny Gage.

Photo: Marco looking worried in close up.

Photo: Ranger C.B. Harris hanging out of 240 Robert Air with a litter.

Photo: Ranger C.B in closeup, struggling out a chopper door, with a laden rope.

*
From: patti k () Sent: Wed 4/08/09 5:54 AM Subject: Seat Of The Pants..

In the hospital reception area, Sarah Collins was frantic.
She rounded on Paul Carnes and Terri Blake at the main desk where they were listening in to 240 Robert Air's rescue rangers at work at a base station. "Why? Why wasn't I told right away that my grandson was in trouble?" The silver haired woman refused to be placated, refused a chair and handed out coffee from the nurses. She stayed highly distraught.

"Mrs. Collins, we just found out ourselves. Now getting all worked up about everything even before we know anything concrete is--"
Captain Carnes began.

"I... don't....care.. about me, I only care about my dead boy's son!"
she sobbed hysterically.

That rocked Terri Blake and Paul deeply and for a few seconds, the rangers fell silent.

"Just what are you people doing about finding my Joey?!" Mrs. Collins yelled loudly, in fear.

Guiding Sarah by the elbow, Terri and Paul led her into the base station's secondary room where another radio was broadcasting 240 Robert's rescue site band, out of the public's ear.

"We've sent out every available ranger team and our third 240 Robert ground crew pair on a search by cruiser and horseback. We'll find Bluebird Five. And fast. This park isn't very big." Paul insisted.

"But the trees are." Collins countered, quietly intense. Her old, long blond hair tangled in her face. "How can you see anything out there? I should know,
I've been hiking those trails for years." she said, finally softening in her fright.
"Please! I want to do something."

Paul accomodated. "Then help us search. Go with Terri.." he suggested with a sweep of his hand.

Blake nodded eagerly. "Can you ride a mule?"

"Of course, I live on a ranch." said Sarah.

"Then let's go.." Terri told her, rising from the table she had been leaning on.
The two women dashed out of the room.

Paul Carnes sighed wearily, rubbing his face. Then he turned back to the radio station and turned up the sound.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

**(Portions of the 240 Robert characters' dialogue and the action following is taken from the 240 Robert TV series pilot, Apology. First Aired August 28, 1979 Writer : John Furia Jr. with Story by Rick Rosner)**

C.B. finally let go of the rope, letting the litter drop and skid down the rest of the cliff face. It clattered awkwardly to the others below.

Trap saw the sudden dump and he signalled Marco to come with him to release the lifting tether cable clasp from the stretcher/backboard bundle.

Lopez jerked the cable once so the top end coiled up and smacked the belly of the chopper to signal to Morgan that the load was free.

Gratefully, Morgan let the biting wind push her back up into the sky.

Harris looked over at her and smiled wearily as he shut his door and locked it. She gave him a thumbs up as she went back to land next to the rescue jeeps to conserve fuel by dropping off C.B.

Applegate laid the litter next to their victim and they all got to work. Two minutes later, their radios crackled and they felt the vibration of chopper blades in their lungs.

Trap looked up and saw Morgan experimentally executing a tight figure eight above them.

##Ready to pull him out?## Morgan asked cheerfully, still buoyed by her success with the litter delivery.

Trap rolled his eyes in disbelief at the others. Then he toggled his talk button. "You can't come in, Morgan. The winds are wicked and getting worse."

##It's only a problem doing down. Going up will be a snap.## Wainwright cooed.

"There are phone wires." Trap told her.

##I've got them spotted.## Morgan countered.

Applegate tried ignoring her as the kayaker was checked and rechecked for long board placement and tied down. Soon, their patient was strapped and wrapped snugly into the litter.

The motor buzz in their sinuses grew stronger over the howl of the wind. Applegate shot a sudden look up to see 240 Robert Air sinking slowly towards them, bobbing erratically in a gale.

Nearby, a pine bough snapped off by wind and helicopter forces, was sucked up nearly into her props.

Applegate winced. "It looks too dangerous. Pull up!" Trap warned her.

##Too dangerous for me? Or any pilot?##

"Any pilot, Morgan!" Trap growled.

There wasn't even the slightest hesitation in the next person to person transmission. ##I'll get down to forty feet but I won't be able to hover long#
came the red headed pilot's instant reply.

Thib saw his partner finally give in to the inevitable when he let the radio mic dangle around his wrist by its cord. He almost smiled at Morgan winning her side of the battle in favor of a fast exit for their victim.
Dwayne watched as Cap, Marco and Trap lifted the wounded man to carry him over to the one column of clear air space that Stanley had spotted earlier through the trees.

A sudden sparkle caught his eyes, making him blink. It was a piece of painted metal lying on the stones. Dwayne hefted it up, double checking.::Dang. This is a med alert tag!:: he thought in unpleasant surprise. Then he read its printing.

"Hey! he's epileptic.." Thib said, showing the others what they had almost missed seeing. Then he weighed the complications and settled instant implications in his head. "I'm riding with him."

Applegate almost went apoplectic and his face colored. He was thoroughly unhappy. "What happens if he has a seizure in the air, and starts thrashing around?"

"That's why I'm going. I'll pull out his airway. He might choke to death." Dwayne calmly told him.

"Right. And throw you to the ground, hundreds of feet down. I tell you, the wind is a bear.." Trap argued.

"Look.. Coming in's a trick. Going up is a piece of cake." Thib grinned easily, refastening the strap of his red helmet. "Just like she said."

Cap expressed his agreement silently by placing both hands onto his hips derisively. They all looked at Applegate expectantly.

Trap shut up. Then he pursed his lips and bit down a little pride. "Morgan, Thibideaux's gonna have to ride with him. Together they'll be about three hundred fifty pounds."

A satisfied silence gelled on the radios.

Unbidden and collectively then, the team got back to work. Moments later, the lifting cable ball that Morgan was laboring to lower far enough to the ground, finally reached them and thunked rock to steel, onto the ground. They hastened to attach it to the occupied litter.

Just as swiftly, Thib hooked in his safety's carabiner clasp to the lifting cable's cradle ring and braced himself, splayed on all fours, hands and knees, on top of the litter.

Trap gave Morgan a thumbs up over his head.

The load jerked into the air and immediately started spinning from potential energy release.

"Easy!" Marco shouted, using Gage's radio that he had tuned to 240 air's pilot channel. "He's torquing!"

On the stretcher, Thib kept his eyes on the kayaker's slack face, watching for signs of vomitting due to the likely skull fracture. He tried ignored the whirling landscape around him.

240 Robert Air's engine groaned in strain, gaining painfully slow inches in altitude. Wainwright tried to end the line's dangerous spin, with a bob.

Then suddenly, nearby.
Crack!! Psssffftt!!.. A split, worn telephone pole fell over in a wind gust and overstressed its tension wire to the breaking point, its fibers parting in high pitched squeals and metal scream, unravelling.

Then the ruptured pole wire zinged like elastic through the air, whipping up in a violent snap, straight up.

Its loose end snagged and wrapped, looping around the chopper cable and snaring it sickeningly in a tight, unyielding grip.

Cap and Lopez gasped in horror, startling, running forward.

Applegate shot his hand mic to his mouth. "Morgan, hold!" he gasped. "Hold, Morgan. Mayday! Mayday! A phone wire's caught on the litter ring.." Trap hollered. "Hold hover. Repeat! Hold hover!"

-
Up on the cliff top, Roy saw the danger, too. "No!" Thinking fast, he grabbed a rope coil from the ground and tossed it over the cliff away from the chopper's path. Then he moved. "I'm going down to free it.." he said,
tying off the end in a fast hitch to one of the rescue jeep's bumpers.

"I'll cover ya." said C.B., grabbing a jacket to protect DeSoto's descent line from rock rubs. He jammed it under Roy's rope, then he took up the excess to act as anchor controller.

Skillfully, DeSoto negotiated the cliff and down to a ledge that was only feet away from where Thib, the litter and the ensnared telephone wire tangled in the overgrowth.

Gage saw that Roy had disappeared over the edge and he tried to stand up. But Ted restrained him where he had Johnny seated in a blower heated jeep, sucking on the Res-Q-Air for fast warmth. "No you don't. You're out for the count." he told Gage. "Sit!" he ordered, returning the blanket around Johnny firmly. "You listened to your partner." he complained.
"Why not me?"

"But he's--"

"We're out of it." Cassidy warned Johnny, pinning his elbow so he could grab another analyzing blood pressure reading using a stethoscope. "Let the others be. Don't distract them!"

"Ted, I can't jus--"

"Do I have to sedate you?" Cassidy insisted. Johnny moused down, but not all of his trembling was from cold blood. ::Roy, if you get fouled up,
I'm gonna--:: He jerked in irritation.

"Don't you even think about it." Ted said, lifting his head at an arrythmic bleep from Johnny's EKG monitor.

Sighing, in difficulty, Gage finally closed his eyes and was still so he could concentrate on slowing his breathing under the hot oxygen's mask.

Kelly solved the problem. "I'll go watch for you, pal." he said from the truck's driver's seat, where he had been holding Johnny's precautionary I.V. setup, getting it ready for Ted to use.

"Thanks, Chet." Johnny coughed.

Chet hung the insulated bag on the truck mirror and took off for the cliff top to be a pair of eager eyes.

Ted eyeballed Gage. "90 over 76. So how long were you in the water?"

Johnny blinked, uncertain, groggy. "Uh,....Don't r-remember."

"Never mind. I'll settle for just your temperature." Cassidy said, chuckling,
placing a tympanic reader probe into Johnny's ear. "95.6 F, hero boy. You just earned yourself a free flight into the E.R."

"...thrilled.."

"Which arm?"

"Huh?"

"For your I.V. Right or left?"

"Left, I think.. uh.. Roy told me once. B-Better veins."

"Okay.. One D5W. Straight up.. no ice." Ted said, biting off the wrapper.

"Oh, aren't you a funny man."

-
Out in the wind, trapped, both the chopper, and the litter, jerked.

Thib overbalanced and barely snatched a grip on the edge of the stretcher with both hands. As a result, his radio fell out of his fingers... and into freefall....

SMASH! It shattered musically, a nimbus of ruined parts as it destroyed itself on the sharp rocks.

Trap leaped to a higher rock, gripping his own mic powerfully.
"Thibideaux has lost his radio! Hold your hover as tight as you can.. I'll direct you! Do you hear me? I'll direct your ascent!"
he yelled at Morgan, far above.

##Agh! I can't see the litter, Trap. Will act to your instructions#
Morgan gasped, fighting for flight control and stability.

"Ease down. Just a little. Give him some slack.." Trap transmitted.

Wainwright let go of the power button on the joystick, gingerly..

Applegate held his breath. Then he saw the loop they all wanted, begin to sag into the wind. "Hold, hold it right there!"

Morgan froze her hand into stone.

"Hold on..... Looking good!" Trap said, as the swayed phone line was swept right into Roy's reaching hands, on his ledge.

Unseen by the others, and blind to anything below him, Thib decided to stand up, unhooking his safety snaffle, in an attempt to flip the phone wire off the litter's ring.

A second later, a wind gust picked Roy bodily up by his wire gripping hands in an air sweeping arc that lifted both feet off the ground.
That sudden shift of angle and weight totally knocked Thib off his precarious perch as the chopper cable swung out from its vertical.

Dwayne tumbled head first off the litter, two hundred feet above the ground.

A lucky hand grabbed its smooth plastic edge, arresting his fall by only a few fingertips. He grabbed on tight with the other hand desperately,
clenching his teeth hard with the tremendous effort to save himself. ::What the h*ll was that?:: he wondered, about the odd lurch that had toppled him. There Thib dangled, helpless.. muscles straining as his legs kicked.

Roy froze in place, suddenly realizing what had happened. He shouted a warning to the others in the ravine. "Loose man!"

Applegate ducked, squinting at his target almost lost up in the trees.
Then he saw it, too. "Thib's off the litter! He's hanging on!" yelled Trap to Morgan.

Then he saw DeSoto make a frantic cut with a suddenly produced knife blade to the wire he had pinned under his armpit.

::Yeah. Yeah..:: Applegate thought. ::That'll work.::

The wire strands energetically unravelled, like frayed and broken yarn, pinging whines, all the way up the loop.

Then the phone line parted and fell away harmlessly from the chopper's lifting ring.

240 Robert Air was free.

Applegate practically ate his radio. "And clear! Hit it, Morgan. Get them both outta there!"

Like a graceful bird in the sun, Wainright gave herself completely to the prevailing updraft, and gained healthy height, carrying her two living burdens up with her. All the way to the top.

The litter and helicopter disappeared out of sight.

Trap sagged against a boulder, in stark relief. "You did it, Morgan.
You did it." he transmitted. ::Saved them both.:: he sighed mentally.

On the cliff ledge, Roy DeSoto gave him two thumbs up, in victory.

Then, he rested a few seconds bent over his knees, panting hard. Soon, Roy refolded up his pocket knife and put it away to begin the long climb back up the cliff face.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Sarah Collins looking worried.

Photo: Ranger Captain Paul Carnes, adamant.

Photo: Park ranger riding by on a horse.

Photo: Thib bending over a fainted Johnny.

Photo: Gage in distress, on his back.

Photo: Ranger Ted Cassidy (Brice) from Sierra TV series.

Photo: Thib riding up on the chopper litter.

Photo: A wire tangling the stokes cable pair.

Photo: Roy climbing down a cliff on a rope, wearing a yellow shirt.

Photo: Thib falling off the stokes stretcher.

Photo: Trap looking up radioing frantically.

Photo: Gage, scratched up, on oxygen in a rescue truck cab.

Photo: Ted Cassidy (Brice) focused close.

Photo: Trap radioing to Morgan by the stokes stretcher.

*
Subject: Mop Up.
From: patti k () Sent: Mon 4/13/09 12:05 AM

**(Portions of the 240 Robert characters' dialogue following is taken from the 240 Robert Pilot, Apology. First Aired August 28, 1979 Writer : John Furia Jr. with Story by Rick Rosner)**

Johnny watched as the others loaded up the kayaker into 240 Robert Air. They had moved Gage to stand near by the landing area so he could join the man for the trip into the park hospital.

Roy climbed up the rope and jogged his way over to Gage and Ted, who was holding Johnny's arm to steady him.

Gage's I.V. was hanging around his neck like a trophy by a bungee cord. DeSoto laughed. "Boy, are you a sight for sore eyes."

"I could say the same thing." Johnny said, not letting him take his pulse at the wrist. "Just what the h*ll happened down there?"

"A wire broke off a pole and snagged the lift cable." Roy told him.

"Bad?"

"Yeah." Roy said. "I had to cut it for them. Fast."

"But..but.. shouldn't that have crashed that chopper the second it got fouled up?"

"That's what usually happens when a chopper gets trapped by ground debris."

"But all that wind..."

"Yeah."

"And all those trees.."

"Yeah! I know." Roy agreed. "It's a miracle she stayed flying.."

"What a pilot.." Gage sighed, stars in his eyes as he saw Morgan peek out the flight cabin to watch the others fuss over the kayaker's stretcher bubble door until they had it locked up snug.

DeSoto teased him about the glazed look in his eye. "Are you going out on me here?"

Ted, who was still busy with moving his gear, misinterpreted the comment and grabbed the back of Gage's neck, thinking he was fainting again. "Whaa--? I'll catch him!"

Both DeSoto and Gage started laughing and both shrugged Cassidy's paramedic concerns off. Roy bailed him out. "I meant emotionally.
About a girl Johnny's fixating on over there. He's fine."

Ted let go of supporting Johnny's head a moment later. "Oh. I should've figured. He did the same thing when he got sweet up on Julie Beck back at home on your last visit to Sierra." Then he leaned into Johnny's ear. "Sorry, chum. But that fiery little redhead's taken from what I've been overhearing." he smirked.

"Taken?" Johnny gaped in dismay.

"Yeah, I overheard Thibideaux over there ribbing Applegate about a date those two went on when she first joined the 240 Robert team." Cassidy said as the three of them watched the kayaker being checked and rechecked for flight travel safety.

"Oh, yeah?" Johnny grimaced in disappointment. "Well, how long ago was that?"

"A bit." Ted told him. "But I'm just guessing. I haven't found out how long 240's been in operation yet. It's only my first day shadowing them." he confessed.

"I might have a real chance, then." Johnny whispered, his boy like grin returning.

Roy just shook his head ruefully. "Ah, Gage and his feminist fixation in full swing. I think he's fully recovered, Ted. A libido's proof positive."

Cassidy's face blanked out in seriousness. His eyes sparkled, mock firm.
"Really? Well I wanna go on playing flight paramedic here. So keep him acting sick until after I get us both into the air. I wanna see exactly what that sweet little black and white bird can do." Tim said of the chopper.

"Me, too." Johnny smiled, eyeing up the pilot with admiration. "I promise I'll groan for ya. But just a little." he said. "I wanna keep my eyes open so I can watch her the whole trip in, so don't authorize a stokes for me. Please?"

"Deal. You'll sit." Ted said, with an eager nod. He wrapped up Gage's still active trailing EKG wires and handed Johnny the small monitoring machine to carry personally. "Got that? Exercise'll warm you up faster."

Johnny laughed. "Yeah." Then he faked a stagger as he took it. "Ooo, my arm.." he kidded. "It's still cold numb."

Ted just ignored him as he kept on watching for the signal from Trap to load up Johnny into 240 Robert Air, with impatient, folded arms.

Roy smirked. "So suck on this. That's what it's for." DeSoto said, re-fastening the Res-Q-Air mask over Gage's face from the bag Ted had left by Johnny's feet. Then he passed the whole unit off to Gage's free hand and shoulder. "There. All snug?" he asked about all his tubes and wires.

"What? Do I look like a pack mule here?" Johnny complained, blowing off flowery billowing steam curls around the flowing oxygen mask.

"Yep." Roy scoffed good naturedly. "Ted can't carry all that stuff by himself."
Then he moved over to the cliff to help Chet get Cap and Marco out of the ravine by using C.B.'s deployed jeep winch and cable.

A few minutes later, the rescue crews were almost ready.
"Okay, easy now. One, Two Three.." said Trap as Thib and C.B. maneuvered the kayaker's litter onto the flight rack locking pins.

Hank poked in his head into the bubble. "How's he doing?"

Thib gave him a thumbs up. Stanley matched it in relief, then went to go fetch Johnny. Soon, Ted Cassidy and Gage were buckled in the caretaker seats with Paramedic C.B. Harris monitoring the kayaker's condition continually.

A minute later, the others moved off to let Morgan launch with her four passengers.

"240 Robert Air to Appalchia Central." Wainwright radioed once she was in the air and safely above the ground winds.

##Central, by.##

"With an ETA of five minutes, I have two medical emergencies, one with head and back injuries, multiple fractures. The second with chills and hypotension. The first patient is an epileptic." reported Morgan to the ranger base doctor and nurse listening in. "We've got on both."

By the rescue jeeps, Trap sighed as he re-packed up his med kit. "Have to admit it, Morgan. You're one h*ll of a lady.." he said to the silhouette of the chopper against the sky as he listened to her radioed out broadcast to the ranger base.

Next to him, wrapping up ropes, Thib smirked. "You know, I really would like to hear about those two dates you two went on.."

"Oh, you would, eh? Well, someday, I will write you a song about it." Applegate promised him.

"Well something tells me that there's a little something more to it than that." Thib jabbed, probing.

Trap didn't bristle. He finally admitted an observation. "You know, she's pretty gutsy. For a girl, she's gutsy."

"Trap, why don't you go tell her." Thib said simply.

Applegate sighed and then nodded, in appreciation of the truth.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mike Stoker pulled up in Johnny's land rover. He parked it and got out, rejoining the two 240 Robert sheriff paramedics and the rest of the gang who were talking in low voices about the next plan of attack concerning Bluebird Five.
"Hey guys, how'd it go?" he asked.

"Fine. Got him out." Stanley said. "But Gage froze a little taking a swim. We sent him in with the victim to get warmed back up."

"Boy, were we lucky. I packed up our campsite. Completely. Deer's on the roof."
Stoker told them.

Kelly eyed up the blue tarp tied to the top rack of the land rover. "Well, vacation's over for us, that's for sure. No steaks tonight."

"Why? Did something else happen?" Mike wondered, spinning around in place to check out their surroundings.

Stanley answered, very somber. "The park's regular chopper dropped off the radar on her way here. Chances are good that she crashed. There's a male pilot and boy on board."

Mike's face filled with concern. "Where abouts?"

"We're working on that." Thib volunteered, spreading out a map that Trap had placed onto the hood of one of the rescue jeeps. They weighed it down against the building wind with some hasty rocks placed at the corners.

"Appalachia just told us they lost the signal at 46 24.526 -128 03.739 westerly.
But Bluebird Five's transponder ping only puts out a positional once a minute on normal setting. If Baxter was going full out for speed, that makes our search radius from those coordinates about eight miles in diameter." Trap told Stoker.

"What's the terrain like in that area?" Mike asked.

"Thick woods and hills. No roads. A few mountain ridges." Thib shrugged.
"Every available ranger's been mobilized on horseback."

"Can we help?" Hank offered. "We work mountains sometimes back at home.
Search and rescue."

Trap angled his head skeptically considering the long sleepless night they had already suffered during the cougar's surprise visit.

Cap read his brain.
"My men and I won't get any sleep tonight either if we walk away from this one."

"Sure." Applegate relented.

"Let's go." Thib said. "I know a fast way to the center of that circle. This road leads to within a half mile of it. Trap'll drive the other jeep. Everybody follow me."

"I'll drive the rover." said Chet, snatching up Cap's hand held radio.
"I'll go with you." said Marco, running after him.

Roy looked up. "Cap, why don't you pair up with Thib. I'll go with Trap. That way, we'll all have a radio. Stoker can you handle that map?"

"Yeah. Easily. This is just like the one I was looking at when we first registered in at Park Headquarters." Mike answered.

"Then come with us." DeSoto said. "We'll need a navigator after a while."

Applegate nodded in agreement.

"Everyone, excellent plan. See you there." Stanley replied.

Quickly, the three vehicles convoyed down the road with the first two of them suddenly reactivating urgent lights and sirens.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: 240 Robert paramedics loading up a patient stokes into a chopper.

Photo: Ted Cassidy ( Brice) watching with another ranger.

Photo: Roy smirking in relief, wearing a white shirt.

Photo: Gage frowning, seated, wearing a maroon shirt.

Photo: Morgan close inside her helicopter in a radio helmet.

Photo: Morgan's flight seat and stretcher bubble from the outside.

Photo: 240 Robert's Thib in rescue gear and helmet, closeup.

Photo: Hank and Stoker in hunter camouflage, grinning in fall woods.

Photo: 240 Robert Air landing by rescue jeeps.

Photo: Thib running by 240 Robert 2, his rescue jeep.

Photo: Trap, looking worried in a climbing helmet.

Photo: 240 Robert 2, with its doors open, lights flashing.

*
Subject: Tears And A Little Hot Water )
From: patti k () Sent: Tue 4/21/09 12:24 AM

Terri Baxter had to get away. Even before Sarah Collins saddled up on Jodi the mule and joined the search party. So the nurse turned rookie ranger escaped into the forest on her usual horse and wandered onto one of the numerous trails winding around Mirror Lake, to sort things out.

She had really screwed things up royally. ::First, I argued with Joanne about the stupid mistake I made during the avalanche mishap. I should have shut up. And now, there's this.:: she thought morosely. Terri looked down at the opened envelope in her hands. It was a disciplinary action that she had gotten from Paul Carnes concerning her risky behavior at the avalanche exercise. She was grounded from all snow release outings until further notice.

Strangely, she didn't feel the horrid consternation she thought she would feel at receiving her first demerital letter. And it was all because of the latest emergency crisis to strike the park : Bluebird Five's missing status.
::I sure hope that Ken Baxter and little Joey are still okay.:: she hoped.

She still remembered how the charming child and she had first met, earlier in the week. Her mind reflected back into a daydream of the moment...

Something fell and hit her on the shoulder. Terri jumped. It was a toy battleship.

"Could you gimme that?" a small voice answered from the pine tree immediately next to park headquarter's main entrance. Blake smiled, peering into the branches.
"Here you are." And she tossed up the ship into invisible hands. "What's your name?
Are you stuck?"

"It's Joey and no. But I wanna get down before Grandma sees me."

"Fair enough. I'm coming up to help you." Terri smirked, pulled off her uniform belt to use as a climbing strap. Soon, she lifted his tiny body off of his branch and settled him to the ground in a fireman's carry. He regained his feet neatly.
With some spunk, he dusted off his clothes briskly, then extended his hand in greeting. "And yours?"

"Mine what?" Blake blinked, still holding the boy's tin of plastic battleships that had fallen out of his pocket on the way down. She shook his hand right back.

"Your name." he said, taking the tin back respectfully. "I can see that you're a ranger by your green and tan clothes."

"Oh, oh, oh. I'm Terri. Terri Blake. It's nice to meet you, Joey."

"It is." he nodded enthusiastically. "I guess anybody that gets me out of a bind is a friend. Wanna play?" he said, shaking his tin. "I'm good at board games."

"Sure." Terri agreed.

The next few days went by pleasantly, and more and more Terri felt a strange bond growing between them. Each morning, boy and ranger would talk in the heliport while Terri cleaned equipment and horse tack. Then they'd go horseback riding or swimming in the lake, depending on the last of the Indian Summer weather.

And almost always, they'd tell stories to each other by the river after lunch. Soon, Terri began teaching Joey basic woods know how. Fire building, and sunlight navigation and food foraging. They had already covered reading disturbed moss signs for deer and how to build emergency shelters when a twig snapped nearby. Blake looked up into the sunlight.

It was Sarah Collins.

"Oh, Mrs. Collins." Terri said. "I hope you don't mind me watching your grandson like this. He's actually a lot of fun to be with compared to most of my coworkers."

"Miss Blake, I brought him here to... stretch a little." the old woman said,
skirting specifics. "Keep at it. Joey doesn't seem to mind so why should I? He's already told me so much about you. So I just had to come out and meet you for myself."

Terri grinned, handing Joey another pine bough to add to a practice shelter they had built next to the parking lot. "He's a charming little boy."

Sarah watched her only grandson sadly. "But a troubled one." she shared.

Blake frowned. "If you don't mind my asking. How so? I mean, he's so happy and carefree." Terri commented as she watched Joey steer his toy ships around the landscaped garden's gravel.

Collins chided a dismissing huff. "He's TOO positive. Haven't you noticed how protective he is of his navy cap?"

"Uh, huh." Terri answered honestly. "I've asked him about it more than once but he always changes the subject every time."

Sarah took Terri's arm and turned her away from where Joey was playing inside the pine bough lean to. "His father was killed on assignment while aboard the U.S.S.
Intrepid, nine months ago. It happened a few days before Joey's seventh birthday."

"Oh, I'm so sorry." Blake murmured, taking Sarah's hand.

Collins patted Terri's grip reassuringly. "A gasline ruptured and started a fire. Ben was overcome by flames while trying to save his captain."

Terri hated death and she found herself glancing away to hide unbidden tears as she studied the sun's rays shimmering on the lazy current in the creek near them.

"They buried my son with the highest of naval honors." Collins concluded.

Blake met her eyes. "And his mother?"

"Carol died when Joey was three and a half, of cancer. Ben and he became very close during that time. And beyond. Then Ben died and left us both behind." Collins whispered sadly.

Terri said the first thing that came to mind. "Your son must have been an admirable man."

Sarah's face furrowed at a memory. "Problem is. Even at the funeral, Joey never cried a tear. Not even when the sergeant at arms presented him with the flag." Sarah broke off,
hiding her reactions so Joey wouldn't notice. "He should feel something. Anything." she insisted to Terri, who was listening very close. "Not grieving isn't natural. Therapy hasn't helped at all. So I figured bringing Joey back to where he and his father spent their happiest times couldn't hurt." she grinned. But then she let go of Terri's hand. "Oh, I shouldn't be dumping all my problems onto you. You probably have enough to worry about already."

"Boy do I." Terri said, wiping away sympathetic tears as she laughed.

The two women talked until the sun peeked through the lower most beech branches hanging low over the water. Then Collins noticed her watch.

"Oh, my gosh." Sarah exclaimed. "Time to be heading back. Come along Joey dear.
Let's go. We've got to get our beauty sleep if we're departing on that mountain expedition tomorrow morning."

"Oh, that's right." Terri realized. "I did see your names on the registration form. Funny I forgot that when it was I who planned out the course."

"Not a problem, Miss Blake. Joey and I like to live simple. Takes a lot for us to be noticed in most cases. But we'll be ready for you being our guide. We have our tents and horses already assigned to us. And our camp rations. But I think I forgot to bring one thing from home. A pillow to sit on afterwards."

Terri giggled. Joey ran up suddenly then and sat down on Terri's lap.

"Hi, kiddo." Sarah, said, ruffling Joey's hair. "Did you have fun out there?"

"Yeah." answered the boy. "I found some deer tracks and I saw a really big porcupine over by the birch meadow!"

Sarah's eyes twinkled at Terri. "Oh, really?"

"Uh, huh. And a blue jay, too. He scolded me for getting too close to his nest. Let's go, Grandma."

"All right. I'm coming." Sarah said. The three of them got up seconds later and headed for the warm lodge.

-
Terri Blake broke out of her reverie and concentrated on the trail in front of her as her mount placed one careful foot in front of the other in the half frozen mud.
::Oh, Joey. Ken. Be safe. I can't stand it that you're not." she sobbed suddenly.

Her face wet, Terri realized she was getting impatient for operations to begin. Blake coughed loudly as she turned her horse around briskly. She thundered back to the main lodge's stables and heliport to meet up with Sarah and the rest of the park rangers in her search party as fast as she could.

Ten minutes later, Terri and her group, along with Mrs. Collins on Jodi the mule, all left headquarters, bound for the deep woods where Bluebird Five lay lost and buried.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joanne Almsted glanced Johnny's way from where she was quickly stabilizing the second kayaker for another chopper flight to a larger trauma center that could handle all of his extensive injuries that she knew would require surgical intervention to repair. The skull fracture and expanding epidural hematoma and the broken spinal vertebrae films were glaring at her from the illuminated xray shadow box and their chilling abnormalities made her move even faster to drill the rest of a set of emergency bore holes into her patient's head to relieve his slowly building intracranial pressure.

Gage met her stare from where he lay on his side on a nearby gurney. "Don't waste a single second on me. You already know how well I'm doing here. He's first for you and I really mean it this time." Johnny told her, pointing to his very normal EKG reading blipping away on his attached monitor. "I'm just V-tachy from hunger which that I.V., is fixing." he told her pointing to the rapid drip in his I.V.'s chamber.
"No longer shivering..." he said in challenging mock singsong, holding out a level hand. "I'm warm enough to wait more than just a little while for treatment."

Joanne ignored his "order", chin gesturing for a nurse to give him a second Dex50 boost into his intravenous line and another set of heated blankets. "You forget I have staff that are extensions of me. I can do both. Marilyn, grab another BP and rectal temp on our favorite river swimmer over there will you? I'm almost done here." she said, lining up the power drill for another go, a little mischieviousness not beyond her. She fought down a very unprofessional grin.

"Hey wait just a doggone minute here. You don't need to get a core temp on me that way!" Gage complained loudly.

"My E.R. mister. And things are always done my way, medic man." she said levelly. "I'm sure Marilyn will draw the curtains to protect your sudden sense of modesty. See you in a few minutes.." she said, waggling her blood stained gloved fingers clownishly.
"..for our appointed date." she said, snapping off one of her gloves dramatically to throw it neatly into a biohazard waste bin. Half the sparkle of anger in her eyes wasn't feigned.

Gage sighed and dropped his tired head back onto the pillow in frustration as the nurse drew the cubicle divider shut around them. "I can refuse any treatment I like, Ms. Doctor. I think I'm an expert on my own rights as a conscious patient after six years working as a para-- WhoOOO!" he ansed, feeling a deft petroleum slicked probe as it found its mark.

"Hold still." Marilyn warned sternly as she took Gage's temperature.

Just then a crack in the curtain appeared. It was Morgan Wainright with a question for Dr. Almstedt. "Say doc, where are you? The nurses out front said you were just about ready for me to relaunch with.. oh myYY.. Too much information.." Morgan quailed, wincing, and covering her eyes after she beheld Johnny's bare tush.

"Ever heard of knocking first?" Johnny said, throwing a blanket over both nurse and his rear end. He flushed nine shades of red in all four cheeks.

Marilyn just rolled her eyes and unburied her head with a look of long suffering.
"I take it you really like these two women?" she guessed.

"Do you mind?" Johnny glared at his caretaker.

Wainwright regarded him with a serious, curious, tilted but still self blinded expression. "Really? Me and Joanne? That's funny because Terri Blake told me she thought you were hitting on just her a few days ago something really fierce." Morgan said. "Is he decent?" she asked, her leather covered hands still shielding her eyes.

Nurse Marilyn answered acidly. "Don't know. The vote's still out on that one."

"Hey! I'm actually a really nice guy. Just ask my other friends when they get here."
Gage said defensively, snubbed on the barely veiled nurse's insult. "Yes, I'm covered." he finally groused.

Wainwright pulled her gloves away from her eyes.
"Tell you what, Mr. Gage. I like what I've seen already." winked Morgan. Then she disappeared behind the fabric, leaving Johnny behind, gaping like a fish out of water.

"She.. she uh- w-.." the stunned paramedic patient sputtered.

"Breathe, fireman. I'm finally done." announced Marilyn at last, eyeballing the thermometer she had just retrieved from its blanket covered target area. "Hmmm. 96. Still a little cool."

"No, she's hot. And she's interested!" Johnny celebrated, grinning lopsidedly.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Terri Blake, smiling gently in the dark.

Photo: Joey Collins, beaming in daylight.

Photo: Grandma Sarah Collins, content, outside.

Photo: Joanne Almstedt, grinning like a banshee.

Photo: Gage, wearing a cannula, embarrassed.

Photo: Morgan with a huge sh*t eating grin.

Photo: Marilyn the grumpy nurse from Snakebite.

************************************************** Subject: Message from the Sky From: patti k () Sent: Fri 5/22/09 2:12 AM

Birds were the first thing that entered Ken Baxter's awareness. Then came the pain.

"Ahhh!!" he grimaced, folding up his limbs from where he lay on his side on dusty bare ground matted thickly with fall rotting pine needles.

A branch was cutting into his throat, where it had been pinned awkwardly from the way the pilot had landed after slicing himself free of his seatbelt harness.

Desperately, Ken tore it away, and gasped when a strong odor choked him.
::Fuel. The chopper's leaking.:: he thought dimly. ::Got... to get aw--:: Then another horrid thought came to light. ::Joey! Did he make it out, too?:: he wondered frantically.

Keeping as still as he could for the moment, Baxter moved just his head,
palms and elbows as he craned about, searching for the boy who had been his passenger. "Joey?!" he yelled, his voice echoing through the tiny, deeply shadowed valley gorge into which they had fallen.

There was no reply. Grunting, and breathing hard, Ken located the most concentrated pile of crash debris that had fallen from Bluebird Five still suspended eight feet up the ancient pine tree. It had saved them from a full ground impact. He rolled over and began to crawl, belly and elbows, back to the patch of wet dirt that lay directly under line-of-sight with the upside down suspended helicopter cockpit.

Pure agony in his abdomen and upper leg stopped him a foot short of his goal. Glancing down, Ken saw a dark red wetness staining his jeans and something white. ::I don't want to know what the h*ll I've done to myself now.:: he panted,
resting his forehead on trembling, pine needle gouged hands. But inwardly, he knew that sickening pale glint, might possibly be bone showing through torn skin. ::Oh, lordy. That'd better be metal or something and not a snapped-in-two thigh. Don't want to... bleed to death out here like a stuck pig in front of the boy.:: he fervently wished. "Joey! Answer me!" he shouted again, peering up into the remnants of the chopper hanging overhead.

Nothing answered him but the wind and birds, trickling down to Ken in the feeble sunlight under the pine trees.

Moaning and stifling a cry of pain, Ken peeled off his pants belt and tightened it anew around his injured leg above the hideous wound he didn't want to see. Immediately,
the thick and sluggish hemorrhaging slowed and the numbness and tingling increased.
"Joey, I need you to make some noise, real loud. I can't find ya!" Baxter gasped, reeling from a growing shock that was seeping inexorably into his awareness. "You're gonna haveta lead me to--" he broke off, recognizing a bright bit of blue and pink stripes lying underneath a shattered rotor blade, mostly covered in chewed up pine needles. "Joey?!" Ken yelled.

Having tended the worst on himself as best he could, Baxter dragged himself cautiously around pools of still drip accumulating aviation fuel over to the half buried shirt he had spotted. "I've found you, boy! Move for me!"

Ken saw a caked hand poke itself out of the leaf litter feebly followed by a small cough. ::He's breathing!:: Baxter celebrated mentally.

Baxter got to Joey's side and uncovered his face and neck where he lay on his stomach. The Collins boy was only half awake and straining to draw breaths in occasionally. "Easy now, son. I think you just got the wind knocked out of ya after we both bailed out of our seats."

Joey struggled, beginning to panic. Baxter sat up painfully, curled over his swollen leg. He tipped back Joey's head after rolling him over onto his back. "Relax, just relax. That band around your middle gut will go away mighty quick now that you're fully awake. All right? Just look at me right in the eyes and concentrate on loosening up that gut cramp.
You're fine. Okay? Just breathe as it comes." Joey's bright, frightened eyes took in Ken's bruised ones and finally Joey didn't look away as the boy gripped both of Ken's wrists in a tight grip of fear.

A thin, full inhalation rewarded both boy and pilot as Collins ceased to panic under Ken's warm hands that were cushioned around his face. "Oh, G*d.." Joey sobbed, as first words of speech finally escaped his lips. "That really sucked r-*gag*" he coughed.

"Yeah? But we're alive and not smeared all over the mountainside. Good job unbuckling your harness. But we're not done yet. We're still in danger. The fuel tank's compromised."

"And we might be barbeque if we don't.. Hey, you're bleeding.." Joey worried, sitting up stiff and sore, with Ken's help against a piece of chopper hull.

"Not anymore. At least not much." Ken gasped. "Banged up my leg among other things.
You hurt at all?"

Joey patted himself. "My ribs, a little."

"Where? Right there?" Ken asked, probing the boy's left side under his shirt.

"Umph.. yeah. I heard something crack when I hit the ground."

"No holes." Ken pronounced, looking at the large bruise he had found there.

"Nope, I don't think so. Dad used to say, last thing I'd want, is to be making noise through a new mouth in the rib cage after any fall."

"Your dad was a smart cookie, son. A collapsing lung is nothing to shake a stick at."

Joey sighed, freezing in place, remembering something emotionally painful. But then he began gingerly picking at the pants material around Ken's hidden injury. "We've got to tend this." he warned.

The pilot stopped him when agony erupted. "I don't want to know."

"But..."

"Call it a mental thing." Ken said more firmly.

The Collins boy studied Ken's gray and sweaty face, analyzing.
"All right. At least it's covered." Joey told him, drawing his hands away. "So let's get out of here. I think I saw some of the cargo bay stuff land over there. Might be blankets and our packed food close by."

"Most likely. We'll grab them and a container for water. There's a creek down at the very bottom fifty yards that way. Saw it shining earlier." Ken told him.

Joey looked up fearfully at the wind shivering, mangled chopper still hanging in their very lucky lone giant of a pine tree. "Any chance she'll explode?"

"Nah, I turned all her power systems off. Let's just not play boy scouts with any matches until we're well away from her." Ken joked, trying to grin for Joey through his pain. "We'll make a signal fire for smoke later that doesn't risk her spilled Jet A-1. Only thing that'll set her off is static from friction."

"You mean from all this wind and rubbing branches on her hull?"

"It's possible. Something we can't overlook. Pine sap's highly conductive. So let's hurry."

Slowly, Joey helped Ken drag himself out of flammable ground cover a long distance away from the chopper's tree. He found a smooth, sunheated rock table in between two bus sized boulders to use as a shelter out of the afternoon's cooling winds.

"Here." Collins told the dazed pilot. "This place's warm. I'll head back for our stuff."

Ken gasped. "Look sharp for a hand held radio. We had two stowed in the back on a rack. They may have been tossed out with us." he murmured weakly,
sagging mentally against his will. "And be c-careful."

"I will." Joey said, heading back cautiously, exactly the way they had come.

-
The searchers had gathered their horses into a circle in the parking lot in front of the park's headquarters. They all had radios and rescue packs with them, along with an emergency shelter, and heavy terrain tools.

They all watched 240 Robert Air land, freshly back from her return trip delivering the second kayaker to a surgical hospital further down the coast on Long Island.
Morgan Wainwright leaped from the chopper and met the group to learn what channel through which they were going to operate.

"Here. We'll be on Channel Two!" Ranger Ted Cassidy said, reaching down from his borrowed horse to hand Morgan her own handy talkie. "It's a fresh battery."

"Thanks. I got here as fast as I could." said Morgan, taking it from his glove. "Where am I going to start my search grid?"

C.B. Harris told her. "Dispatch says Bluebird's transponder signal was last received at 46 24.526 -128 03.739 westerly."

"I'll set those coordinates on my GPS." Wainwright said, waving quickly as she dashed back to her helicopter to take flight. "Don't worry. I'll find them. Just keep looking for anything abnormal that can't get above the treeline. Chopper debris, the smell of fuel on the wind, black fire smoke. There's a possibility I won't be able to spot them from the air."

"Will do!" Cassidy shouted back, watching her jog away.

240 Robert Air took off in a flurry of dust and noise as she angled nimbly towards the sun and the vast expanse of unbroken orange tinted forest and pine groves flanking the slopes of the Appalachians surrounding Park Headquarters.

When she had gone, Blake swept up her arm urgently.
"Okay, fan out everybody!" said Terri to the others. "We already lost enough time ironing out our plans. Both of 240 Robert Ground's rescue jeeps and a team of off duty firefighters from California are already almost to the center of the search area. Our job is to cover the perimeter and work our way in to them from as many points around the outer circle as we can."

Next to her, on Jodi the mule, Sarah Collins sucked in her breath. "Are they so sure Joey's helicopter crashed?"

"It's more than likely, Sarah. I'm sorry." Terri told her. "There's been no response on radio from Ken Baxter, our pilot, nor has there been any sign of Bluebird Five's signature. That means she's dropped off radar--"

"..below the trees.." Collins quailed. "Oh, Joey." she whispered fearfully as Terri took the reins of her mule to begin a leading gallop from her horse after the other searchers already moving full speed into the forest.

-
Ken Baxter lay gasping in a half daze when the edge of a thick wool blanket landed on his face as Joey hurriedly threw it over his shivering body. "Ooff."
he said.

"Sorry. But you're going into shock. How's that bleeding doing?" the worried boy asked him.

"D--Don't know." Ken said. "I can't feel my leg anymore..." he whispered weakily.
"Did you find them?"

"What?"

Baxter winced and closed his eyes in mild frustration. "The radios."

"No. They must be still up there with the rest of the chopper." Collins shared quietly.

Ken actually felt tears of stress start to well up as he began to realize the seriousness of his injury. "Oh, that's not good. I was kinda hoping for.."
he broke off as a sudden spasm gripped his thigh in a white hot vice grip.
"AHHHH!" he screamed.

Joey held his shoulders and tucked the blanket he had found even tighter around Ken's body and head. "Easy. Think that's broken?" he asked in a frightened voice.

"I'm really sure of it now..." the pale pilot grimaced, in intense pain. "Fun and games initial shock vacation's over.." he strained, trying to suck in a full breath.
The hot stone face he lay on suddenly made Baxter feel vaguely nauseated and very detached after the sickening dance of his bone torn muscles had ended. "Man, I really want to pass out." the pilot choked. "Now would be nice." Ken said.

"No, no, Ken! Please stay awake!" Joey minced with fear, uncertain. "Don't leave me out here all alone." he sobbed, suddenly losing his first aider's confidence.

Something about the boy's aching intimate plea communicated itself to Ken.
:: Wow.:: Ken thought. ::Is Collins, Jr. finally unwalling his pent up stress about his father's death?::

Baxter opened his eyes with a sudden clarity. "Hey.." he whispered. "Joey, I'm not following your father's past here. I don't plan on dying any time soon no matter what current cards I've been dealt, so don't fret any. It's bad for business." he said, trying to smile. "If you'll let me, I've got a little confession to share with you about your dad Ben."

Joey's eyes got very large and a shocked expression filled his face as he was caught totally off guard. "How did you know my dad's name?"

Sighing shakily, Ken spoke again, wiping cold sweat from his forehead. "Help me sit up, son. We'll dig through all the survival stuff you got back for us to see what we've got to work with first, and then I'll let you in on that something I haven't told you yet that your grandmother thought you weren't ready to learn."

Joey just sat there, frozen, as emotionless tears began to fall actively down his face. One of his hands subconsciously reached for the place his navy cap would have been had it not been lost in the crash, to adjust its missing, but still strangely felt, bill. "What secret?" he simpered, tears flooding his eyes, suddenly unchecked. "I want to know what it is... Now.. I... I can't stand it.." he cried angrily.

Gasping, struggling, Baxter managed to get against hot rock, supported upright.
"Come here, son. I won't bite." Ken said, beckoning with a gesture to deliver a hug. "I'll try my best to be stronger for the both of us." he promised. "Believe me, your father would have expected and wanted it that way. All right. I'll tell you. Ben and I were best friends, Joey. I was there that day, when it happened. And I have a message for you. From your dad. It was the last thing he ever said."

Sighing, totally overcome, Joey fell forward into Ken's gentle, open arms. It was the first time that he had accepted anyone's embrace, since his father had died. "Tell me it." Joey whispered into Ken's ear. "What he said. I've wanted to hear from him again for such a long, long time." he said, letting his full, no longer hidden grief flow heavily from his eyes.

Ken trembled and closed his eyes. He didn't have to imagine the memory of Ben's fire ravaged face where he lay on the bridge of explosion seared navy ship. The horror of knowing that death was approaching had numbed him then. But the sunny, warm scent of Joey's hair comforted him now and gave the badly wounded pilot his courage to face that moment again. "He said, 'If you remember what we were, how we lived, you will find life again. Now, I'll live in you. And in all whom you will encounter when you'll tell them of us, my darling.' "

Baxter let go as the phantom memory of Joey's father's voice left him and he felt himself starting to black out. But he didn't fall. He was caught by two tiny hands that supported his head as he was lowered swiftly, but carefully, back to the ground.

Joey looked up into the sky, and smiled. "Thank you, Dad. I love you."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Ken lying in mud, in pain.

Photo: Joey Collins, looking frightened.

Photo: Ken trapped under chopper debris on his back.

Photo: Joey, crying, hugging Ken Baxter, the pilot.

Photo: Park rangers on horses in a meadow.

Photo: Morgan Wainwright of 240 Robert heading for her chopper.

Photo: 240 Robert Air doing an aerial search above forestland.

Photo: 240 Robert Ground radioing ahead for search communications with a chopper flying overhead.

Photo: A setting sun over a steep, rugged pine forest near dusk.

Photo: Navy cap, bearing the name U.S.S. Intrepid and a gray ship emblem.

*
Subject: Mule Tidings -- Part One Finale... From: patti k () Sent: Thu 5/28/09 3:15 PM

Hank Stanley kept his grip on the cherry flare he held away from his body as he walked slowly through the woods, calling for the pilot and the boy. He could see the bright red blooms of other flares from ones that Chet, Marco, Mike and Roy were holding as they moved in a line down valley, spread out over a quarter of a mile. Their voices rang out, but no replies returned. ::Eight miles round is a big area to cover. :: he thought. Cap readjusted the rescue pack on his back and kept going.
Falling shadows of late afternoon made it difficult to see anything out of the ordinary. Twenty minutes earlier, a false alarm had been raised over a half foot piece of metal and rivets found but the park rangers confirmed that the find had actually been from a plane crash that had occurred ten years ago on the ridge above them. Heavy rust on the bottom side of the shard had proved a very aged condition. Deheartened, the Station 51 crew just nodded and got back to searching and scanning the tree tops for damage or smoke.
Cap walked alongside Terri Blake's horse briefly to ask her a few questions.
"How good of a pilot is your friend? Maybe that'll have a bearing on where he might have chosen to go down. If he knew the area well, he may have aimed for an open spot." he suggested to the Ranger R.N. Terri looked down from the saddle, her face set in lines of worry. "Paul Carnes says he's one of the best. An ace pilot from Nam. These woods are his playground.
He could tell you his coordinates just by the pattern of trees and hills he saw below him from the cockpit. Sir, if Ken Baxter had any place to land, he would have found it. Dwayne Thibideaux and Trap Applegate have already checked all the clearings they know about. Bluebird Five's not in any of them."
"She's down in heavy cover then." Hank sighed.
Blake just studied her hands as she rein guided her horse over logs and fallen leaf drifts and didn't answer.
Morgan's voice piped down through Terri's handy talkie. ##You know, guys. I've been thinking.## she radioed from 240 Robert Air. ##Ditching over land's far different than ditching over water. If Ken had wind problems, there would be only one thing he could have done to save that chopper#
Blake thumbed her toggle switch. "And what would that be?"
##What else do you do when you're being flung around in a fast current? You find an anchor.## Wainwright suggested.
Cap's eyes lit up eagerly. "A high tree, sticking up out of the forest. A kind with broad branches.." he said, thinking.
Terri got excited. "White pines, Morgan! Eagles nest in them all the time for their accessibility. They stick up out of the trees sometimes up to twenty feet higher than the rest of the forest."
##Islands in the sky. ## Morgan agreed.
"He must have done that. I know he did! He's teased me enough about landing on top of one enough times when I'm flying with him." Terri said. She turned up the gain on her radio. "Blake to all search parties. Concentrate on searching out all the lone sentinel white pines in your grid. Bluebird Five may have used one of them to get out of the air if she was in rotor distress."
##Roger#
##Will do#
##I'm heading west to the ridge tops.## came the many replies on her communications band.
##I know where the nearest one is to me.## said Paramedic Deputy Thib, adding more. ##It's huge, like a tower, stuck in a creek valley. I'm heading there on foot, leaving the jeep on the road to mark my position. My GPS is on. I'm about a mile away from it. #
Terri's eyes reflected hope, glistening with tears. "10-4."
Chet angled up to Terri, on foot, flanking her horse on the opposite side of Cap. "Uh, not to sound dumb. But what does a white pine look like?"
"Like that." Terri said, pointing a casual finger over her shoulder behind her at a tall majestically sweeping pine tree on the highest ridge top that was crowned with the silhouette of a pair of thermal hovering bald eagles as they hunted for prey above the aerie they had built in it. "Eagles are always over every one of them." she replied. "Those pine trees are their take off platforms. And dang it all, Ken probably borrowed his joke stunt idea from them just to scare the life out of me back then. He's sure doing a pretty good job of it scaring me now."
"We'll find them." Cap told her. "Now that our searching is narrowed down to specific points. We'll find them for sure."
"I hope we do, before darkness sets in." said Sarah, on the mule. "Tonight's forecasted to be below freezing again before dawn." -
Joey heard a groan behind where he was fanning out smoke with a broken pine bough from their signal fire, up into the growing darkness. "...ohhh."
"Mr. Baxter?!" shouted Joey. He hastily dropped the stick he was using to stir up more hot embers and scrambled quickly into the ring of the fire's light where the injured pilot lay rolled onto his side under a thick layer of blankets and a wool sleeping bag. "How are you feeling?"
Ken didn't say anything for several breaths. When he opened his eyes, they were swollen and blood red. Joey saw that he couldn't focus on his face at all, so he took Ken's damp hand into his own and squeezed it.
Baxter slowly raised his eyebrows. "I'm not gonna lie to you, kid. But I think I'm on the "d" side of "bad.""
Collins was distraught. "What did I miss?" he asked urgently. "I stopped your leg's bleeding. Covered you up. I- I got treated water boiling for chicken broth for us. I even added sugar!" he minced nervously. "Joey.."
"I treated your shock as best I could, Mr. Baxter."
"Joey.."
"So why aren't you getting better!" the boy panicked. "You're still so cold."
Ken sighed for the boy's benefit and squeezed the child's tiny hand right back. "I'd be an easy fix if I were just a singed steak. But this leg of mine's trying its best to be ground beef. Hamburger's hard to heal right away."
he joked, trying to ease Joey's worry. "So if I don't cook right, it's not your fault.
I'll always be grateful.. that you d-did the best you could." the pilot whispered.
"Don't say that." Joey cringed, not wanting to think of the pilot actually dying.
"Have to. Because it's true." Ken said simply, pursing his cracked lips. "You're saving my ever living sorry *ss butt."
Joey looked down at where his hands clutched Ken's nearest bigger one.
"Not very well." he sniffed, new tears beginning to fall.
Ken sensed the boy's mood changing over to despair. "It's okay to be afraid, kid. Let's face it. I'm pretty scary looking cold cuts here. But you did your job just fine, I'm wrapped up all nice and snug for delivery. Now all we gotta do is wait for our flying people chefs to arrive to turn me into their one of a kind daily special."
The Collins boy smiled bravely, but he couldn't laugh. He tried to help Ken some more, answering a deeper instinct. "Are you getting hungry? I think our soup's just about ready."
"I think I'll pass. My stomach probably couldn't handle it." Ken said, thinking about how much his current nausea might grow in the future. "How long was I out?"
"Almost fifteen minutes. Did you get those black eyes from hitting your head?"
"No. I-I might have gotten them because something squeezed me around my waist too tight for a few seconds. Might have been my seatbelt riding up after we crashed. I got ... something... burning deep inside my abdomen where it slipped."
"How far did the belt go?"
"Up to my armpits." Ken felt his neck and found that it had been bound loosely in gauze wrap. "I remember hanging by them until I released the belt harness's chest catch. But I think this neck scraping was from a branch. Is it bad?"
"No, looks like road rash." Joey replied. "It's already dried up. How's your leg?"
"Numb. What color is it?"
"I can't tell. It's too dark down here in this gorge." Joey said, peeling away the blankets from around it.
"It's okay, I can feel the chill on my toes. See? They're probably steaming." he said, wiggling them.
"Hardly." Joey re-buried the foot and leg. "I was joking."
"Well, I'm not in the joking mood." Joey told him, no nonsense. "I'm feeling helpless being trapped like this."
"Why? They know just about where we went down. So we're not lost. You got a fire going for heat and light. With food." he emphasized. "It's not raining so we really don't need any shelter yet. We're doing really great according to my book."
"Well great's not good enough. We can't signal to them anymore. The sun's gone down and these trees are too thick to let any firelight or smoke through to the sky."
"So light a bigger fire." Ken suggested, closing his black and blue eyes tiredly.
"What? That's crazy! There are too many dead leaves lying around. I don't want to start a wildfire in all this wind." Joey told him. "No way, am I going to burn any Bambis."
said the boy in no uncertain terms.
"All right. That's okay. I can see that. " Ken blinked, blurrily. "Well, no I can't, but you're the man in charge of camp and who am I to argue with the voice of reason? I'm just the patient here. Well, guess we have just one option left available to us then."

"And what's that?" Joey snapped, feeling irritable.
"We wait." Ken said simply. "Seems your first plan's really the best one after all."
he concluded, winking a bruised, fat eye. He pulled up the blankets around his shoulders more snugly to sleep. Joey's mouth flopped open in sheer amazement at how he had been maneuvered into feeling okay again about their current situation. He was struck mute.
But not the pilot. "Oh, and keep any bugs from landing on my face, would ya? I hate em."

Dwayne Thibideaux was getting frustrated. He radioed back yet again over the search party channel. "Nothing here at this one either. I'm adding these GPS coordinates in red as already searched. My next target tree is up the ridge over Diamond Valley Gorge." he radioed, exasperated. "I wonder why we don't have a map and a count of how many nest pines are actually in the park? Kind of important, don't you think, with the bald eagle being our national bird?" he said to the others on their channel.
##Lack of funding.## said Paul Carnes from Park Headquarters through the base station. ##Much easier counting campers. They generate the direct revenue for us.
Our eagles are just window dressing in our legislators' eyes#
"Yeah, well having that information now might help save two lives." Thib fidgetted as he hiked.
Ranger Carnes mused a bit, then he transmitted an idea. ##I'll call the local birding club. They might know every stick in those hypothetical nests better than they know the backs of their own hands#
##It's worth a shot.## Roy DeSoto replied into the band from where he, Stoker and Trap Applegate were hiking along a nearby ridge adjacent to Thib's. ##Cutting a few corners may speed up the ground we can cover before full darkness hits#
##That'll definitely help me.## replied Morgan from 240 Robert Air. ##I can search all marked coordinates that they could possibly have squirrelled away, in minutes.
Eight miles round is not a very big area from a helicopter pilot's perspective. #
Paul Carnes got right on it, reaching for the phone.

Johnny Gage was watching the news from his hospital bed. He had long since put two and two together that the missing helicopter in the park being reported was actually Bluebird Five. He was getting antsy for the search teams as he heard more and more details about the weather forecast for the evening. ::No snow, but more winds? And cold? Not good.:: he thought.
He jumped when there came a knock on his door.
"Ah, geez. Come in.. I'm decent.." said Gage, throwing a sheet over his legs that were still sticking out of the hospital gown. He put a scowl onto his face in case it was Marilyn the nurse coming to take his vital signs again.
A head peeked through the cracked door. It was Joanne Almstedt. Instantly Johnny brightened. "Oh, hiya Miss Doc, Uh, I mean Joanne. How's our patient doing?"
Joanne rolled her eyes around the room and shrugged. "Fine? I.V.'s DC'd. Your core temp's back to normal. So's your B.P." she ticked off on her fingers, surprised that a seasoned paramedic would be asking her that kind of question about himself.
"I meant the second kayaker.." Gage said, fluttering a few fingers to clarify.
"Oh, he's still in surgery. Prognosis is, uh..." she hesitated, thinking about confidentiality.
Gage rescued her. "...still out to lunch.. I can just imagine." Johnny sighed, growing serious. "He was pretty out of it out there."
"Yeah.." Joanne said, equally crestfallen. "Let's hope my meatball surgery made a difference for him."
"It did." Gage told her seriously. "He'd be dead by now if you hadn't've released all that intracranial pressure. He was posturing."
Joanne came the rest of the way into the room and leaned up against a chair set along a wall, smiling ruefully as she crossed her arms. "It's so weird talking medicine with a patient and getting a dose of it right back at me."
"You're welcome." Gage grinned. "And I really mean that. I know how hard it is making crack decisions in the field about treatment. Back at home, we don't always have a perfect communications link with our hospital at times."
Joanne nodded. "All those arroyos and canyons."
"Yep. It sucks whenever you're in a low spot on a call."
"What about your physician's standing orders?"
"We don't have any. Well, not yet anyway. Maybe soon though. Brackett's talked about cutting us loose one of these days." he chuckled. "Speaking of which, am I free to go?"
"You mean, free as in released from the hospital?"
"No, I mean free to go out on a date with you sometime before the end of the weekend. Because then, we have to truck out to the airport to learn a new kind of firefighting."
"Platonically? Then it's a yes, Mr. Gage. I think we both have some bad air to clear up."
"Ahh.." Johnny sighed. Gage mimed being shot to the heart. "There's that word again."
"What? Platonically? Or is it actually hearing a 'yes' answer that's making you feel faint?"
Joanne winked from around her clipboard.
"You figure it out." Johnny said, challengingly.
"Get dressed. You've been sprung. I have...." she said, looking at her wrist watch, "..exactly forty five minutes before my night shift begins. And the park cafeteria is open now twenty four hours for all the search parties and state agencies moving in."
"I'm gone.." Gage said, leaping out of bed and making a dash for where Marilyn the nurse had hung his camping clothes in the bathroom.
Joanne politely shielded her eyes from the open flaps of Gage's gown fluttering as he ran by her. "Don't you ever tie anything?"
"Ropes. Really well. But not gowns. They leave irritating crease marks." Johnny said,
slamming the door behind himself. The door opened and he peeked out at his doctor.
"Be right back in thirty seconds. Nobody dresses faster than a firefighter." he smiled lopsidedly, excited. He slammed the bathroom door shut again and soon, Joanne heard muffled changing noises and bangs as he hurried.
Under her breath, Joanne muttered. "Bet it's not faster than what a certain lady helicopter pilot can't undo." she chuckled under her breath. "Morgan, he's a good one. I'm jealous.
Too bad I'm already taken."

Joey was snoozing fitfully on a bed roll under a blanket when he heard a disturbance. "Ken?"
Ken Baxter shot bolt upright when the muscles around his broken leg leaped again in another series of uncontrollable spasms. He screamed as sickening sensation returned in blinding, white hot pain that shot through his entire body like a lightning bolt from his groin to his teeth.
Unthinking, Ken grabbed at his pants leg over the deep, cratered wound under the bandages in panic, and bumped an elbow against a sharp bone end by accident. His screaming cut off instantly as a new wave of choking agony gripped him cruelly. Ken fell back down to the ground onto his back in a contorted knot of limbs, twitching in unbelievable torment.
"Mr. Baxter? What's wrong?" Joey yelled. "Lie still!"
"Cramps! In my leg! AHHHHhhh!"
The weakened pilot felt something critical tear deep inside. An answering fountain of blood, hot and coppery, began to spurt out of a newly opened gash in the thigh around a clearly snapped femur shaft. Trembling, the pilot tried to suppress the overwhelming flood with both hands, trying to sit up. "W-What did I do?"
he panted.
"Ken! Don't move!" Joey shouted. "A big vessel's been cut!"
the boy shouted. Joey scrambled over to Baxter as fast as he could with a bundle of rags he had found. He pressed them against the cratered gouge in a ring around the stained bone that was jutting up from newly pale,
colorless skin with all of his strength, but blood still shot out and into the air around his pressing pile of cloth. The pilot noticed the jet of red escaping from between Joey's hands.
""Oh, no.. G*d, no. Please. Not like this.. I don't want to die like this.." Ken wheezed as the cramps fled from a sudden lack of circulation. "Joey, you gotta help me more. This is real bad." he gagged. "Killing bad.."
"I know."
Yelling in fear, the boy twisted around and spied a football sized boulder next to him. He grunted, hefting it up into two hands with effort, against his chest. "I'll stop it, Ken. Hold still. I found something real heavy."
Ken's head nodded, but then Joey saw him sag onto the ground as shock began to take the pilot's consciousness again as his blood pressure bottomed out from the effects of the stabbed artery. The boy saw a large pool of red rapidly spreading out from the sleeping bag and running into the dirt surrounding their fire.

With fast desperation, Joey moved the bulk of the stone over the groove between Ken's upper leg and lower abdomen. Then he let it drop. The rock immediately nestled onto a pressure point neatly, shutting off the flow of blood to the rest of the leg farther down. The hideous spray of gore from the thigh, ceased instantly.

His hands wet, dripping, and sticky, Joey gaped in surprise. "I got it Mr. Baxter. You're not bleeding from your leg any more!" Collins said,
carefully studying the large stifling stone sitting on Ken's body. Then he slid his hands down lower and lifted up the soaked rags over the spasm shifted fractured bone to double check. But the new large wound was quiet of any flow. "Now I'm sure I've got it stopped again. How does it feel to you?"
But the pilot didn't answer from where he lay sprawled on his back.
The boy looked up at Ken's face. It was lax and turning dark. Ken's sudden stillness began to terrify Joey. "Mr. Baxter? Can you hear me?!" He crawled over to the pilot's head and bent an ear down over his nose and mouth, laying a hand on his chest. It wasn't moving. Nor did he hear the sound of air passing in and out of Ken's lips.

"Ken?!" the boy shouted. Remembering more scouts training that he and his dad had long practiced, Joey took a hold of Baxter's face and tipped his chin up to clear the tongue from the back of Ken's throat. Then once more, the boy listened.
The pilot wasn't breathing.
"..oh, no.." the boy sobbed softly. He blocked off Baxter's mouth with the flat of his palm and then he blew the largest breath of air he could in through Ken's nose. The man's chest rose only a little, but it was enough. A few breaths later, Ken's features pinked up as the pilot's thready heart began to faintly circulate the oxygen that Joey offered. "Ken!" the boy cried. "Wake up! You gotta breathe on your own.
I can't keep doing this. I'm gonna get tired. You're almost too big for me to help." he gasped in between his attempts to keep Baxter's lungs filling. "Ken? Breathe!"
But the pilot remained still and limp as death itself.
Joey kept offering deep, panicky breaths as they both slipped into eerie limbo.

The two desperately bound figures were swallowed up by the darkness of full night as the camp fire began to drop lower and lower inside its ring of stones. Slowly, its lifegiving wood was consumed into just glowing ash as the lonely sigh of the autumn wind drowned out the sounds of a little boy's crying and the frantic efforts of his work, trying to breathe for two.

Terri Baxter kept her horse along side Jodi the mule, so she could talk with Sarah Collins. "We're gonna find your grandson, Sarah. It's only a matter of time."
"I know that well enough. It's what condition we'll find him in that worries me."
she answered acidly. "Dang it all, why can't your mule stay on the trail? She keeps dipping her head down grabbing onto things. My arms are getting tired redirecting her back to business each time." Sarah complained, feeling fatigue in every joint.
"She's what?" Terri gaped. "Wait a minute. Let her do that again. I want to see what she's doing."
"Why? She's just fidgetting. Doesn't want to work." Sarah shrugged.
"Not my mule. Jodi's different. She's a hunter. Hates cougars with a passion but she also loves to find anything else out of the ordinary, too."
Sarah eyed Terri on her horse with skepticism. "Are you telling me this mule's a natural born tracker?"
Terri squared her jaw, embarrassed. "Well..." She tried a different explanation.
"I know we've never lost a cougar yet we've gone after." Baxter grinned, tipping her head to one side. "Handy, since there isn't a park ranger on the staff who knows how to track them."
"Joey's not a cougar." Sarah scoffed, frustrated.
"No, but a chopper he was in that crashed is certainly going to be an odd ball in these woods. And Jodi would notice a change like that long before any of us would. Weird as it sounds." Blake reasoned.
Collins harrumphed loud in her throat and loosened the reins on Jodi's neck.
"I'm willing to try anything at this point and I think the others would agree with you, me... errr...us." she sighed, correcting herself, with strained emotions.
Jodi, the bay mule, suddenly freed, immediately canted to the right, nuzzling about in a low bush. Her head disappeared up to the shoulders into its dried branches and leaves.
Terri studied her curiously, focused.
The older woman noticed and brushed her windblown blond gray hair out of her eyes. Sarah rolled her eyes ruefully. "So she's hungry. Big hairy deal, Miss Blake." she joked dryly.
"Just a second, ma'am." Blake held up a hand, watching Jodi's antics carefully.
"She's actually full. Ate her weight in oats after we bagged that cougar yesterday. She just lipped her hay for me this afternoon as a courtesy and didn't eat a single mouthful."
The two women paused again, sitting quietly in their saddles.
Then Jodi took a step backward and when she reappeared, something blue was in between her teeth. Terri dismounted and snatched it free after liberal caresses and praise. "That's a good girl. Good hunting. Now gimme it. Let me see."

Jodi brayed, opened her mouth and let the object fell into Terri's gloves.
The mule's find was made of cloth, full of mud and dust. And when Blake turned it over to look at its cleaner side, Sarah just about fell off the mule. "That's Joey's! It's his baseball cap!" she gasped. "I'd know it anywhere!"
Terri wiped away a smear of mud to expose an embroidery stitched ship bearing the name of the U.S.S. Intrepid. Part of the lettering was splashed in blood. Feeling stunned, and rescuer impatient, Blake passed it over to her guest to free her hands up while she scrambled to get at the radio on her belt.
"He'd never part with it if he was still alive." Sarah sobbed, hugging the battered navy cap to herself in despair. All her earlier obstinance had evaporated into anxiety. She suddenly looked ten years older.
Terri gripped her arm to offer strength.
"Now we don't know anything concrete yet, Mrs. Collins. Let's just treat this find like the clue it is." Blake lifted her radio and reported their confirmed helicopter debris and then she gave her coordinates to the exact decimal quickly.
Minutes later, the rest of the search party converged to begin a new search using the hat's bush as the center mark. Wainwright landed 240 Robert Air on the ridge above the group and jogged down to join them.
Terri pointed to Sarah and what she held. "This hat is the boy's. His name's Joey.
And he was definitely wearing it today."
The searchers got excited. Especially the gang of 51's. Then Terri showed them the damage to the cap and to the bush that had hidden it from view.
"This does look like recent wind scour." said Trap, studying more shrubs and trees in the area. "There's no dew condensing on them yet."
"Yeah, and dust devil debris paths are always dry. See the marks where flying sticks and rocks have pierced the dead leaves on those trees? Bluebird Five must have been caught in a windshear or something similiar and lost control." Morgan stated.
"Then she'll be close by." said Cap.
"Within a half mile. Dust devils don't get that big. And they don't last for very long once they get going." The female pilot agreed.
"Let's spread out!" Terri shouted to everybody. "Look for a white pine/eagle tree in the immediate area." She updated Paul Carnes at Appalachia Central on everything.
"...and our location's is on the west rim of Black Rock Creek Gorge just above Tag 119." she concluded.
##Good job. I'm glad you talked me into keeping that mule on the payroll in our stable's string. She's earned her weight in sweet feed today. Keep me posted#
"Will do, Paul." Terri told him.
Morgan Wainwright ran for her chopper. "I'll get my spot light running hot." she promised.
"How big is it down there?" Roy asked, trying to peer into the pitch black gorge through the setting sunlight.
"Maybe a mile long by a quarter wide. It's tiny. With a creek at the bottom." Terri replied.
"Okay, guys, have your ropes ready. They might be needed." Hank suggested to his men. "And bring all the flashlights you have."
"Right, Cap." said Marco and Chet.
Running to a camping path leading down into the gorge, Stoker drew out a CO2 airhorn cartridge from his rescuer's pack and activated it in a few signalling blasts as he went.
Then the others began shouting Joey and Ken's name loudly as they followed him eagerly down into the darkness.

Joey lifted his mouth off of Ken's nose at the end of giving him another breath.
He was dizzy and emotionally numb to the point of exhaustion. Only fear kept him going. ::Dad, I know you're with me somehow. Keep me awake. I don't want our friend to die. It can't be his time yet. Not like this.:: the boy thought.
Pfwweeettttt! Pfwweeettttt! came a sound, echoing around the rocks of the cliff faces around them.
"And now my ear's are ringing." Joey said aloud hoarsely, coughing weakily as he bent, trembling over Ken's face. He closed his eyes wearily in a half daze and leaned down to offer the still pilot another breath. "Ken, just stay with me."
he urged afterwards, feeling the pulse beating feebly in Baxter's neck. "We're not through with each other yet. You've got more stories about my dad to tell."
".....joey?.....ken?... where are you?...." sighed the wind in a familiar but faraway voice.
The boy's head shot up. "Grandma?! Is that you? We're over here!" he yelled excitedly. Then Joey practically hugged Ken at the end of his next big mouth to nose lung filling ventilation. He crouched low near one of Ken's bloody ears. "Did you hear that, Ken? We've been found!" he shouted gleefully, crying. Then he lifted his head.
"Hey! Hurry up! Ken's in big trouble! He's not breathing anymore!" he screamed even louder. Joey twisted his head in dismay when his voice echoed loudly around the black rocks and cliffs surrounding him in splintered confusion.
"....where?...." came an answering echo. It was a deep voice Joey did not know. It was Cap, still some distance away up one slope. ".....keep shouting.....we still can't find you..." "Down here! Can't you hear me?!" Joey sobbed, completely panicked. He rose to his feet, and started running towards the voice he thought he was just imagining. Just then, a bright blast of light and overwhelming noise snapped into being around Joey and Ken and their still weakily smoldering fire. It was 240 Robert Air, hovering in closer, just at the top of the nearly leafless trees.
##Joey! We heard you. Don't panic. Keep resuscitating the pilot and don't stop. I'll let the others know where you are for you.## came the authoritative voice of Morgan over a loud speaker in a wash of rotor blades. ## We'll be there in just seconds. Less than a minute. Just keep maintaining Ken as best you can. #
"Okay!" Joey blinked, forcing calm into his mind. His eyes began watering in the blinding light, then he waved, and ran back to the bloody patch of ground he had just left. The boy knelt once again onto his blood damp knees, and returned back to the task of being Ken's lungs.
Briefly, Morgan turned her spotlight onto the tree where Bluebird Five hung, assessing explosion and rock avalanche risk should it suddenly give way and tumble down into the gorge. She located pockets of glinting fuel pools in her beam and was soon satisfied that there were no fires burning in the wreck. Then she aimed it back onto Joey to make sure the boy was following her instructions and had his sudden hysteria back under control. Then she toggled back to the search party's channel. ##240 Robert Air. I've made positive contact. They're two hundred meters directly below your current location. Bluebird Five's stable in a pine tree and is in no immediate danger of burning. Sarah, Joey's okay. Guys, Ken's definitely respiratory arrested, just like you heard the boy say. It looks like Joey's been trying to resuscitate him for a while. I directed him to continue rescue breathing. I think Baxter's still viable, there's no cyanosis evident. But there are other medical complications. I saw a lot of blood on the ground around one of his legs. Ken's left upper thigh appears badly fractured. ## Morgan reported.
"10-4." replied Roy DeSoto. "Sounds like a femur break involving the femoral artery."
"And hypovolemic shock." added Thib, nodding in agreement.
"I've got an ambu bag and oxygen set up." Ted Cassidy said.
"Let's go!" said Hank, running even faster behind his flashlight's guiding circle of light.
Roy DeSoto flung himself at Ken's head, feeling for a pulse. It was there. "We got him, Joey.
You can let go of him now. We'll take over." Ted Cassidy used a jaw thrust and began to bag pure oxygen to Ken through a valve mask on high flow. "He's got a fair carotid." Roy reported to Trap who was working on cutting away the gore soaked pants and shirt from Ken's body. "Ringers!" Trap ordered for somebody to begin. "Two of them. Large bore." Roy checked Ken's pupils with a penlight. "They're responsive. Normal." he grinned. "Good job, Joey. Ken hasn't suffered any brain damage. You saved his life, you know that?"
"I did?"
DeSoto ruffled Joey's dirty hair.
"You sure did. Ken's just in a coma because he lost so much blood. We're going to push some of that missing fluid volume back now. Later, he'll get a few blood transfusions once we get to the hospital." DeSoto said, preparing an esophageal airway. "We're gonna keep him under with medications until he can start to heal up on his own, and after surgery, to fix that leg."
Trap probed the leg wound with a forceps and located the holed artery. He clamped it off with a hemostat above the small vessel tear only partially so the rest of Ken's leg wouldn't starve for oxygen. "Found it. It is the femoral, but it's not severed." He checked his work, then he pushed off the rock that Joey had been using on Ken's pressure point. The clamp began to throb rapidly with Ken's fast, weak heartbeat, but it held without hemorrhaging in the slightest. "The hole's clotted shut on its own okay." Applegate then packed off the large wound with sterile gauze to stabilize the site.
"Hair traction splint?" asked Thib while he finished taking a blood pressure.
"No." Trap replied. "He's got an open fracture. Just MAST trousers inflated over his abdomen and that good leg. Somebody, do a head to toe. What are his vitals?"
Thib offered them after taping off the I.V.s he had begun in both of Ken's arms. "BP 52/34. Pulse 160 but regular. No respirations."
"I've boosted those up to twelve a minute, light." Ted Cassidy shared. "Breath sounds are clear." he said, pulling a stethoscope out of his ears.
Roy nodded.
"Okay, let's intubate him. Then let's get him secured on a backboard with a c-collar." DeSoto decided. Once they were through securing Ken's airway, Roy brought Joey to one side while the others continued to treat and ventilate Ken. "Sit next to me. Did Mr. Baxter tell you about anything else that was hurting him before he blacked out, Joey?"
"Yeah, he said his belly was bothering him." the boy said from deep within the blanket his grandmother had nestled around him. DeSoto made eye contact with Thib who checked Ken's abdomen out again. "It's soft.
No masses. Pelvis's stable." he shared with Roy. Then he bundled Ken up again in thick blankets around the fitted longboard and inflated mast suit.
"What happened?" DeSoto asked, turning his attention back to the boy.
"We had to jump down to get away from the chopper. Ken thought she was going to blow up." Collins told him, watching Ted bag support Ken slowly through the taped EOA tube.
"How far did you two fall?" Roy asked, checking out Joey's pupils and feeling his head and neck for problems.
"About eight feet."
"Are you still feeling dizzy?" "Not anymore." Joey said vehemently. "That went away once I was done working for two."
Marco, Chet and Stoker laughed.
Roy winked up at them for Joey's benefit.
"Well, you've earned yourself a rest. We'll let you lie down in a bit. Now how about these ribs here?" he said, noticing the darkening bruises when he had lifted Joey's shirt away for an examination.
"They're fine. I just ache a little bit in my muscles." Joey told him, shivering.
"Where exactly?"
"My back from bending over, my stomach, from blowing hard for so long. And that's all."
he insisted. "Ken needs your help more than I do so why don't you go back to him?"
"I will. I just want to sure that you're doing okay, too. Are you feeling thirsty?" DeSoto asked, smiling.
"A little." the boy answered suspiciously.
Roy just chuckled. "No, I'm not looking to start an I.V. on you. You're doing fine."
"I'll get you some water." said Terri, grinning.
"Make it warm to hot." Roy told her. "With sugar. He's a little chilled."
"And hungry. The soup I made got cold waiting for me to get back to it." the boy complained. Very near them, Jodi the mule brayed, understanding that sentiment perfectly. She began to eat vigorously around her bit, crunching the grass around Joey's shoes with her large teeth in loud, burpy pulls.
Collins laughed and reached up to pet her neck. Roy saw a private conversation in the making in Mrs. Collins eyes so he got up and returned to where the others were getting Ken ready for the hike up the slope to 240 Robert Air.
When he had gone, Sarah spoke up softly. "You know that bay mule found your cap, Joey. Like a needle in a haystack." she told him. Then her eyes watered. "We almost didn't find you two in time. Want it back?" she said, reaching into her jacket for it.
Joey lifted up his sleepy gaze to his grandmother, and smiled. He shook his head. "Nah, I'm tired of wearing it. I don't need that stupid old hat to know how special dad really was any more. I've got Ken now to remind me of that, up close and personal, as my new best friend."
"I'm glad." Sarah sighed, hugging Joey tightly. "I wasn't so sure the two of you were going to hit it off."
"I don't know why you doubted it. Ken's cool. He's a pilot. Just like dad was."
Then Joey sighed. "You think I'll be able to dream about Ben again someday?"
"Yes. You will. Your life has changed so much today, Joey. I think when we see your father from now on in our sleep, that'll only prove how much we still love him with both of our hearts." "If you say so." he said. "I don't want to be sad about him any more. I just want to be safe." Yawning, Joey fell asleep in Sarah's arms, lulled as he had once been with her, as a baby.
"You are, dearest."
Sarah wiped away a solitary tear that fell unbidden down Joey's cheek. She wondered about its wetness. ::For stress? Or for love?:: Smiling, Mrs. Collins kissed her grandson's forehead. Then she whispered something in Joey's insensate ear, making a solemn promise. "I'll watch over you for the rest of my life. And so will Ken. He's family now."
Closing her eyes, Sarah Collins let the strong fall wind take Joey's stained navy cap away from her warm hands and into the crisp night, forever.
END PART ONE -- THE FIRE WITHIN -- MOVIE ONE

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A Rescue Pack on the ground.

Photo: Terri Blake looking worried in a brown jacket.

Photo: Captain Stanley in the woods in a white shirt.

Photo: A tall pine tree crown sticking up into the air.

Photo: Joey lying on a bedroll, looking mud covered.

Photo: Ken Baxter falling unconscious onto the ground.

Photo: Joey providing mouth to nose resuscitation.

Photo: Gage grinning from a hospital bed.

Photo: Dr. Joanne Almstedt, amused, wearing a stethoscope.

Photo: Sarah Collins looking strained in winter clothes.

Photo: Jodi the mule, tied to a tree by a blue sky.

Photo: A closeup of Joey's cap, the USS Intrepid.

Photo: Park rangers rushing in with a stokes stretcher in the woods.

Photo: Roy treating someone, closeup.

Photo: Sierra park rangers, one of them Ted Cassidy, paramedic.

Photo: Trap and Thib from 240 Robert working over a victim.

Photo: Ken Baxter being airway checked.

Photo: Joey Collins, wet but happy in a closeup.

Photo: Sarah Collins, grinning warmly, in sunny woods.

*
From: patti k () Sent: Fri 6/12/09 8:36 AM Subject: Connections..

PART TWO -- THE FIRE WITHIN -- MOVIE ONE

Roy, Thib and Trap and Stoker wheeled Ken Baxter's stokes into the park hospital on the gurney that had been provided once 240 Robert Air had landed in the parking lot of Park Headquarters at Appalachian Central.

Paul Carnes, the park ranger captain, trailed along to get a verbal report from the three paramedics and one firefighter as they rushed their patient in to the doctor awaiting them. "Don't worry about his personal info, we have that. Just a condition status on Ken. And then I'll take one on the chopper." he ordered.

DeSoto replied dutifully, "Hypovolemic shock, with estimated 1400 or more CC's of blood loss. In respiratory arrest. He's tubed, EOA with that ambu. He's got an open fracture of the left femur, with one point arterial involvement, managed. We found signs of possible light internal abdominal injuries, just deep bruising no guarding. I think it's most likely from his seatbelt. The MAST trousers have his pressure back up to 90 systolic. Pulse is 124, thready. EKG is showing sinus tach, regular. Pupils reactive but sluggishly dilated. We think it's possible coma. Deep tendon reflexes are absent. He's got Ringers running in full. Blood glucose is 130, up from 70 following IM glucagon."

"Got it. I'll give this to Dr. Almstedt, direct." said Paul, writing quickly on his report form.
"Wainwright?" he prompted.

Morgan reported on Bluebird Five. "She's salvagable, total front and rear rotor damage but just some minor cabin dents and dings from what I could see. I'd assume electrical shearing to some of the equipment in the patient cubicle. All her windshield flight glass and both cabin access doors will need to be replaced. Only one fuel tank was leaking. The other's still intact. And what I saw of the hydrolic system's fine. A paratrooper fire crew's remaining behind to prevent any ignition points until the military air crane comes in to airlift Bluebird Five free of that pine tree."

"Fuel's pooled on top of clay. It'll be easy to clean up with absorbent sand, sir." offered Stoker.

Paul then nodded to Wainwright, as the rescue and recovery group rounded the corner and went through the emergency entrance side of the national park's tiny hospital. "Is she going to be lifted to ISLIP airport?" she asked about the crash damaged helicopter.

"Yes, for the investigation and any later restoration." answered Paul.

"I take it I'll be staying behind to take over Bluebird Five's regular duties?" she asked.

"You got that right. Until further notice." said Carnes. "I'll keep you posted." he added, about Ken. "Go ahead and refuel from the pump. I've unlocked it. Grounding wire's all laid out.
Thanks, Morgan."

"No problem, captain. Glad I could help." the red haired pilot said, falling back to return to her chopper. "I'll keep my radio tuned to base for when it's time to fly Ken to a Level One for orthopedic surgery."

Soon, the rescuers delivered Ken into a patient treatment cubicle. Joanne Almstedt and her team got to immediate work. Joanne began shouting out care orders to her staff. She caught the chart that Paul tossed to her neatly while an intern took over Stoker's bagging efforts on Ken.

By the curtains, Paul noticed that Sarah Collins had followed them, carrying a sleeping, blanketed Joey in her arms with the assistance of Ted Cassidy, into a nearby cubicle. A nurse followed them in. "How's the boy?"

Roy answered.
"Banged up, but all right. He's just sleeping. He said he was feeling tired and hungry. His vitals signs checked out fine on the way in." said DeSoto, hanging up Ken's I.V.s onto a pole.

Trap grinned, thinking about something, as he helped unblanket Ken for Joanne's examination. "You know, we really need to be grateful to Joey once he wakes up."

"I heard. Did he really keep up manual resuscitation on Ken for that long?"
Carnes asked, surprised.

Applegate gladly shared the news.
"Yep. And stopped that arterial bleed. He saved his life." replied Trap. "I have a feeling that Ken'll come out of this whole thing without suffering any damage from lack of oxygen. Baxter's color was still a good shade when we got there despite all that blood loss. He never lost a regular, viable carotid. Signs of that would have shown up on the EKG monitor as irregularities due to ischemic effects."

"Lucky." Carnes said, nodding as he studied the rhythm on the screen. "Things still look okay."

"Let me be the judge of that." bristled Joanne, overhearing. "Fellas, you've done your job for the day. Give us some room please."

Her hint of dismissal was unmistakable.

All five men held up amused, mock surrendering hands and retreated from the bay.
"Yes, ma'am." Paul said, his eyes twinkling.

-
Joey Collins opened his eyes and let the nurses fuss over him as they cut off his soiled gory clothes and fitted him into a warm patient gown. His hand never let go of Sarah's the whole time. He just kept mumbling random thoughts over and over again in his fatigue. "...All that Dad was, everything that he believed in,
is now a part of me..." he whispered.

"Yes, Joey. That's true of everybody you get to know." frowned Sarah, worried.

"He's just emotionally stunned, Mrs. Collins. Anybody would be, surviving the kind of ordeal he's just been through. Rest'll fix him up faster than anything I suspect.
You can stay with him if you like." the nurse offered.

"That wasn't even questionable.." Sarah snapped, holding a soft hand on Joey's cheek through his rambling. "Easy, love. I'm here. Just close your eyes."

"No! I want to talk to Ken...." Joey hollered, still figetting under the warm wash towels the staff was using to clean him up to look for more minor injuries.

Terri Blake hurried into the boy's curtained cubicle. "Shhh, he can't talk right now Joey, remember? He's got a tube down so they can breathe for him by machine while he's being drugged into sleep."

"Roy said he's in a coma, Terri." Joey cried, distraught.

"Yes, he wouldn't lie to you." Blake agreed.

"An induced, protective one young man." said the older nurse kindly. "He's got a lot of mending to do before he's healed enough to be awake."

"For how long?" Joey frowned, anxious. "He's gotta eat."

"A couple of days at the most." smiled Margaret the nurse. "Now enough about your friend. Tell me what YOU want to eat and drink. That's the next step."

"I'm not hungry."

"Fib.." Sarah said, tipping her chin up at her grandson in warning. "Tell the truth.."

"Okay, okay. I am. How about a soda?"

"Oh, Joey.." Sarah grinned.

Margaret shrugged. "It's sugar at least. Good enough for the doctor, it says here."
she said, eyeing up Joey's chart. "Clear liquids if nauseated." she read.

"But Joey hasn't thrown up." Sarah wondered.

"No, but I'm sure he feels like he wants to right about now." said Terri in sympathy. Then she sat down on a stool right next to the boy as he was covered up in thick heated blankets. "Joey, you can relax. Ken's responding to treatment. He's getting transfusions and his pulse's stronger. Can you hear that EKG monitor coming from over there?" she asked, pointing towards one curtain. A beat that was no longer rapid was sounding softly, very near them.

"Yes." said the boy.

"That's his, so you can keep tabs on him from right where you are. I had Joanne turn on the audible." said Blake. "And you'll be able to hear everything the doctor does for him. DeSoto told me you wanted to be informed as soon as it happened."

On cue, they heard Almstedt's orders to the stabilization team she had assembled around Ken in next cubicle over. "I want a full series; skull, spine, chest and pelvic films. Draw another red top for arterial blood gases, baseline hematocrit, and a hemoglobin study. Ann, just use a dipstick urinalysis to rule out occult hematuria. I don't want to waste time with a foley before we fly him out of here. Oh, and Matt? I want a serum potassium level to see if rhabdomyolysis is going to be a factor for us. What's his pressure?" she asked at large.

"120/88." reported a nurse.

"Good. Keep the abdominal part of the suit inflated for now. I'll let them worry about it later." said Joanne about the surgical team in Long Island who had been alerted that Baxter was going to be sent to them. "How's that foot?" she asked.
"Pulse's weaker." said an intern monitoring circulation. "Swelling's worse."

"Turn it until you get a better one." Joanne told her. "We've got that repaired artery retracted away from the bone end so don't be shy about experimenting with repositioning." she told him. "I want to see pink toes."

"Yes, ma'am." he replied.

"He's starting to gasp." said the staffer on Ken's head, working the bag.

"How often?" Joanne asked.

"One every four."

"Get him on a portable bird. Easy vents on PEEP, 80% O2." Almstedt concluded. "We'll support him for now that way until he takes a more active interest in breathing on his own."

"Right away, doctor." he said.

Listening intently, the boy held his breath. "His leg. It's so bad.." Joey sobbed, tearing up.

Terri Blake smiled to reassure him.
"Ken's not feeling it anymore. And we're gonna fix it with surgery so it's as good as new. The doctor said the break isn't serious. It just slipped out of place while he was out there and made a small hole in that artery. They've already sewn it up."

------------------------------------------------------

The Station 51 five was ever grateful to see a set of free hotel rooms.

Reaching his room, Cap pulled down a penned note somebody had left taped to his door. "Our deer was sent to town." he said, reading it. "It'll be at the butcher's when we leave ISLIP after airport training, already dehydrated and preserved for us and packed up. Says all our luggage is already in our rooms, too." "Who did that? Wow,.." Marco asked. "..that was nice of 'em."

"Doesn't say." Hank told him, flipping the note over.

"Give me that. I can tell." insisted Chet, snatching the paper out of Cap's hand.
He looked at it. "It's a girl's writing. And it's curly. I'll just bet this was Terri."

"The younger one?" asked Stoker.

"Yeah, the cute redhead." Kelly nodded.

"She gets everywhere, doesn't she?" Roy laughed. On a thought, DeSoto paused in opening his room's door with his key. He moved over to the door directly across the hall from his that had a do not disturb sign on it, and knocked.

"DeSoto.." Chet chided.

"It's okay." Roy laughed. "I'm sure we can guess who this is."

Johnny Gage opened the door. He was clean, dressed in a cowboy shirt,
jeans and boots, wearing a cheeky grin. "Hi guys." he said, leaning on his door frame. "Boy, do you look like something the cat dragged in." he joked.

Stoker snorted. "Don't we always after rescues?"

Chet countered, nailing Johnny in the chest with a finger tip. "And you look like the cat that ate the canary."

Johnny snickered. "Well, I did."

"Who was she?" Marco asked excitedly.

"It's not what you think. Joanne Almstedt and I had lunch together. To patch up a rough start." Gage said matter of factly.

Cap just harrumphed neutrally, already on a different track. "Is the food any good?"

"It's great! I had a roast beef sandwich and a salad." Johnny said, patting his very full stomach.

The grimy, hunter clad firemen five eyed up his sated condition jealously.

"Oh. The cafeteria's only open until seven now that all the excitement's over. You've got twenty minutes." Johnny told them urgently.

"After I shower. Then we can meet over supper to do our reports for the park people." Hank told them.

"Aw, Cap. Let's do that later.." said the other five men in sync.

Marco raised his eyebrows. "Yeah, I thought the dinner table's for downtime."

"Say, that's right. I forgot." said Cap in mock discovery. "Could have fooled me that we're on vacation." he chuckled. "I feel like I've just finished a four alarm fire. I sure smell like one." He entered his room and closed his door vigorously, leaving the rest of them standing in the pinewood hallway, alone.

Chet was still reading the note. "Hey, guess who's coming to dinner."

Johnny just winked at him. "Everybody." Then he looked dismayed. "Oh, no. I sure hope Morgan's going to be there."

"Why? Does she have a vendetta against you, too?" asked Kelly.

"No, the opposite." Gage grinned. "She likes my cheeks."

Johnny saundered away, whistling happily with his hands in his pockets for the lodge and its warm fireplace, leaving Chet behind to scratch his head in puzzlement.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The special of the day was grilled venison a la cranberry and sweet potatoes, irresistable to the California six.

"You just ate." Kelly scoffed at Gage as a steaming plate of deer flank was laid before him by one of the park's wait help.

"I'm still recovering. I was cold injured, remember?" Johnny told him, reaching for the pepper mill on the plastic red and white plaid covered long table the main rescue crowd now occupied. "Yum. This one was taken by bow." he said taking a bite on a fork.

"How can you tell?" Cap asked him, incredulous.

"No metallic aftertaste." Johnny said, cheeks bulging with meat. "Steel shot leaves a residue that .....circulates around."

"Eowww.. I'm eating.." said Chet, picking at his venison steak.

Next to him, Deputy Paramedic Dwayne Thibideaux chuckled. "Think of the savory grasses and herbs he must have eaten this morning, Chet. Free seasoning."

"Thanks a lot." Kelly grumped, still remembering his bad kill a few days before.

"What's with him?" Thib wondered, looking up at the others mildly.

"Virgin hunter." Gage told him seriously.

"Oo, sorry pal. I was that once, too. It'll pass. Game meat'll forever taste good once you get over it." Trap Applegate shared with Kelly.

"I sure hope so." Chet moped.

"Yours is worse because of the city dweller effect." offered Sierra Ranger Ted Cassidy. "Bet only Johnny here's been raised out in the country. Am I right?"

The firefighters nodded.

Roy added more. "I helped on a farm once. Processing pigs."

Kelly slammed his fork down in disgust. "Do you mind.." he grunted loudly, glaring at Roy.

"Sorry. I thought I said it discreetly enough." DeSoto told him. "Here, have my chicken." he said, trading plates with Chet. "That at least, has still gotta to be neutral memory for ya."

"Thanks, pal." Chet smiled. "I owe you one." he said diving in hungrily.

"Just take hunting lessons or something when we get back home and we're even." DeSoto said.

At another part of the table, Joanne Almstedt and Terri Blake were talking quietly over non alcoholic wine and pie. The doctor nudged her younger companion with an elbow. "So, are you gonna ask him out?"

"No.." said Terri, nervously eyeing up her mentor and object of affection, Paul Carnes, who sat obliviously near them, chatting up the fire crew from L.A. "Well,
I wouldn't know what to say.."

"Terri, you're a grown woman. You've rehearsed this in your head for the last year at the very minimum. Just do it." Almstedt encouraged lightly, in a whisper.

"." Blake sighed deeply, sliding her chair over to where all the men had gathered to eat. She licked dried lips and opened her mouth. "Paul..."

Carnes was engaged in animated, laughing conversation. ".....and there we were with snow up to our butts and forty eight hungry kids trapped in the lodge along with us for the duration..." he shared with the rest of the group.

"So how did you feed everybody?" Stoker grinned.

"Turned it into a sleepover around the fire: hotdogs and soda cans. With extra blankets on the floor. Turned off the lodge lights to keep everybody calm. The boyscouts were fine. They treated the whole affair like it was part of the tour." Paul laughed.

"Uh, Paul.." Terri started in again weakily, afraid to tap his arm.

Carnes was captivating to his audience and equally lost in mirth.
"I've never seen such a well behaved group of kids in all my years as a captain. They didn't kick, fight, or scream to high heavens. They just told ghost stories. Those even frightened the girls. Didn't they, Terri?" he suddenly asked, looking right at Blake.

"I...uh.. " Terri stammered, feeling all eyes on her from around the table. She flushed red and promptly dismissed what she was about to do. "Well, yeah, one of them." she offered lamely. "Remember that creepy account of a mass murderer running around upstate New York? They told it in incredible detail."

"Ah, but that guy was real." Carnes agreed. "He was on the news just that night, still at large from the authorities." Then Paul turned to Joanne. "Didn't they catch him only a mile or so from here, holed up in one of our cabins?"

"Uh,.. yeah." Almstedt agreed. "Living on poached deer."

Joanne jerked her eyes towards Paul with a small urgent head bob at Terri, but Blake shook her head vehemently, her movements equally miniscule.

Then the moment was gone when Paul slid up close to Marco to tell him something else. And so went the young woman's courage. She wilted in her seat.

Joanne just buried her head in sympathic frustration.

"I'll say it again." Paul said animatedly to Lopez, hefting up his root beer glass and sipping it. "Here's to a day full of successes. This is certainly one night I'll never forget."

"Same here." Terri mumbled under her breath, disappointed in herself. She slid her chair back over to Joanne's end of the table and unenthusiastically nibbled at her pie.

"Better luck next time?" Joanne shrugged, topping off her friend's glass with more pink catawba.

"There might not be a next time. I'm hopeless." she frowned.

Joanne did not give up. "Try asking him when it's just the two of you around."

"I can't do that. I'll... I'll chicken out for sure because you're not there, poking me."
Terri sighed, mortified.

"Then we've got a real problem here. You want Paul to notice you. But he's too dumb to know that you're even interested."

"Joanne..." Terri stage whispered, chiding her.

"What? It's the truth. I'm an expert at assessing people." she sniffed. "So.. What's the next best approach here?" she eyeballed her friend seriously.

Terri gritted her teeth. "I hit him over the head with a baseball bat?"

"That'll work. But then I'll have to treat him and you'll get arrested for assault." Joanne joked, deadpan. "And then for sure, you'd lose your job."

"Yeah.... .." she sighed. Then she tensed up again. "Oh, I don't know what to do." Terri ansed.

"Use your imagination. You've got a great one. And I'm not the only one who knows that." she said significantly, angling her head back in Paul's direction again. "I'm getting up to go sit by the fire. There's room enough on that free couch over there for two." she hinted.

Terri studied her twitching hands uncomfortably, and sucked in a big nervous lungful.

Joanne took one of them, and stilled it. "Do you have that letter of reprimand Paul gave you? Maybe that can be the topic of your conversation to start with. That way, your first excuse to talk to him alone can be your worry over it."

"You really think so?" Blake asked, her lip quivering.

Joanne just nodded fractionally, sincere. "Just be yourself. And Terri. Always remember that he's a friend first and a captain second. There isn't a man alive who'll ignore a best friend in distress. Trust your instincts. Once he's looking at you undistracted, there's no way he'll be blind to your other feelings once you've expressed them."

Terri didn't say anything and she looked down, becoming very quiet then with new private thoughts.

"Go. I promise I won't watch." Joanne whispered, seeing the moment at last in her friend.

A few minutes later, Joanne smiled out of the corners of her eyes when she saw Paul Carnes place his hand over Terri's in something more than just reassurance, in the fire's romantically warm glow.

-
"Write me?" Johnny said, grinning out the driver's window of his rover at Morgan Wainwright. He was eating breakfast, a cojoined pair of cinnamon sweetrolls.

She was wearing a fetching exercise suit under her ski jacket, now that she was off duty. "You bet I will." she said, giving Johnny a light kiss on the lips. "I have to see if those buns are still warm." She moved her teeth to take a big bite out of his food and he enjoyed holding it for her the whole time, delightedly. She smiled. "See you when I get to California, Johnny. Thanks for the taste." Pilot Wainwright winked.

Chet and Marco hooted from the back seat while Cap, Stoker and Roy just rolled their eyes at the innuendo.

"Gage, move it out. We're late." Cap gruffed. "We should have been there half an hour ago."

"Ah, duty calls." Johnny grinned with mock reluctance at his new love interest. Then he rolled up his window and he took their luggage laden rover into the main lane of the parking lot, which led out to the highway.

He kept Morgan's waving image in his rear view mirror for as long as possible until a tree forced him to yank the steering wheel around sharply to the right, to avoid hitting it.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Ken Baxter on a respirator in a hospital bed.

Photo: Joey Collins looking sad.

Photo: Terri Blake looking calm and relaxed.

Photo: Dr. Joanne Almstedt treating a patient, with interns.

Photo: Roy and Chet walking down a hallway in street clothes.

Photo: Gage fussing with a food bowl and peppermills in a striped shirt.

Photo: Venison steak on a plate with veggies and berries.

Photo: The gang piled into a luggage laden land rover.

Photo: Morgan Wainwright, smiling broadly.

Photo: A highway leading to Long Island MacArthur Airport.

Photo: ISLIP airport welcome sign and flags.

Photo: Glowing ISLIP fire rescue sign at night.

Photo: An airport fire station with a neon yellow engine tanker in front.

Subject: The Bonding.
From: patti k () Sent: Sat 6/20/09 5:27 AM

"We're here." announced Chet happily, as he drove Gage's land rover over yet another non descript low set bridge over salty marsh. "Out of the city limits."
"We're where?" Johnny jilted sleepily from the back seat. "Just looks like more of the same to me. Too many people." he groused limply, yawning and wincing in the bright, winter sunlight that was in full force on this side of the Appalchian mountains.
"Those skyscrapers we passed were two burroughs, Brooklyn and Queens. That was New York. Now we're in the 'burbs according to the map; Nassau and Suffolk..."
said Stoker, "..on the way to Patchogue, where Chief Joe Rorchek lives. His house is where all of us are going to be staying when we're not training with his crew."
"Well, when are we going to get to Long Island?" Johnny asked, complaining miserably, feeling up a cramped aching back from sleeping in a poor position. "Isn't that where their fire station is at the airport?"
The others just laughed.
Cap spoke up. "We've been ON Long Island for the last hour, Gage. We're surrounded by the ocean. Can't you smell it?"
Johnny quickly rolled down his window. "Yeah. Holy cow. Just how big is this island? It must be huge." he said sitting up, thoroughly awake now and surprised.
The snow scented air billowed in his hair and refreshed him.
Mike chuckled. "118 miles long, 23 miles wide with a population of 7,400,000 people."
"No sleepy eastern seaboard islet is this." Kelly giggled. "Out here, they do everything grand scale. You missed seeing the World Trade Center, Johnny. Man, those towers were BIG. We could see them all the way from our island."
"Sorry I missed them." Johnny whispered sincerely. "I've heard they're something really special."
A camera click filled the rover as Lopez hooted in touristy excitement. Marco pointed animatedly as they passed another road sign. "Hey, you'll never guess the name of the avenue we just passed."
"What was it?" Hank asked, still interested in learning the topography.
"Stanley Avenue."
"Oh, no way." Cap chuckled.
"It's true. I took a picture of it for you as a souvenir." Marco said, patting Cap's shoulder.
"I'm so loved." Hank rolled his eyes. "But donuts would have been appreciated much more." he sniffed, scanning the businesses around them for their appointed goal. "Oh, yeah.. Chet, pull over. There's the place right there. The one Joe mentioned in his phone call last night. He said to pick up some ribs from that joint to be part of lunch today for the bunch of us."
"The Bobbique?" Kelly scoffed, squinting at the sign out front of the low, red brick building.
"Don't ask. If a fire chief says the food's good, it is. We're stopping." Cap said no nonsense. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Leaving the BBQ ribs and another foil covered tray the gang had prepared, everyone spilled out of the rover and into a virtual paradise. "Wow, flowers?"
peeped Chet as they viewed the extensive gardens around a quaint white New England cottage.
"Must be sheltered from the north winds down here if Indian summer's still hanging on."
DeSoto guessed. "It's almost hot now."
"It's the air masses off the ocean that do that. Kind of like our fog banks at home along the PCH." Stoker shared. "Guess it all depends on which way the wind's blowing. Here,
it must be from the south all the time." he said, licking a finger to hold it up to test the breeze.
"Which is why my wife and I built our home here thirty five years ago." said a rich stenorous voice from behind a bush.
The gang turned and spied an older man with white hair and dark eyebrows making his way towards them in a carnigan sweater and naval trousers.
Cap paced forward and warmly took Joe Rorchek's hand. "Chief, thanks for having us.
We got the chow okay." he smiled. "This is Roy DeSoto, Johnny Gage, our paramedics, Marco Lopez, Michael Stoker, our engineer, and Chester B. Kelly."
"And you're Captain Henry Stanley." Joe remembered, greeting the others briskly.
"Please, call me Hank." Cap said quickly, much to the amusement of the other five.
Joe didn't miss the inside joke, but neither did he ask the reason why.
"Will do. Come on, let's get your secondary things inside and then I'll pull around ahead and guide you the rest of the way to my station at MacArthur. The backroads around here get kind of tricky to avoid the deeper marshes." Rorchek told them. "We'll be floating back and forth between the two places depending on whether we're either on or off duty."
"Where are we going exactly, sir?" Mike asked, ever thorough, with his map out and a pencil.
"100 Arrival Ave in Ronkonkoma, NY. The telephone number's 467-3279 if we get separated from each other in traffic." Joe replied.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Soon, the two fire crews were united in the great yawning bay holding the airport's crash apparatus and other rescue and medical units. Joe Rorchek introduced his two sons, Chris and Ted and then Hallie Green, spunky and fair haired followed by Al Martelli, pump operator and lastly, Rags Harris, the large hazmat rescue fireman of football stature who demonstrated his gentle nature with an easy going smile.

Rags showed a rapid fire cooking prowess by divesting Cap of their purchased beef ribs in trade for a twenty, and then the hunted venison tray offering, by heating them into rich, steaming savory fare in less than five minutes over an open fire pit grill standing outside under the eaves over sand.
The chief invited Cap and the others to sit at the long table that Hallie and his other crew had prepared with potatoes, salad, rolls and cheese. "What'll it be? Coffee?" he asked them as they sat at seats very like the ones they were used to back in Carson.
"What else?" Cap joked. "Don't we all live on it?"
"Like gas." Chet Kelly commented.
Hallie laughed lightly as she placed warmed china in front of their guests, one by one.
"By the gallon. Gentlemen, for later, the head's out that door and up the stairs just down the hall from the chief's office. All the showers and stalls are right next to the locker room.
Eat up."
The gang smiled appreciating the view and blinking a little at the glare of sunlight coming in through the skylights and reflecting off the white painted brick walls surrounding them in the kitchen space.
Martelli took a seat next to Chet, sporting identical hair. They eyed up each other and nodded in mutual appreciation of their hairstyle choices. Then Al grinned. "Hi guys. Nice to meet all of you. I've got attendants from the terminal coming who'll hang all your stuff up for you except for the personals in your duffle bags."
"Thanks." said the Station 51 gang, savoring their freshly poured coffee mugs.
Ted, the light brown haired, small but athletic firefighter, was curious. "Hey, did you bring your Cally uniforms? Those have been authorized as a go by HQ."
"Yeah." replied Cap. "Turnouts, helmets, shirts, pants, shoes and boots."
"We've set out scba harnesses in your sizes." replied Chris. "And a few sweaters. There's a blow coming in later tonight according to the tower boys."
Marco looked up from his eager feasting in dismay. "Whoa, more snow?"
Hallie shrugged. "A little ice. Nothing big." she said, working quickly at her meal.
Roy DeSoto shivered in reflex. "Brrr.."
The others chuckled at his still oversensitive reaction.
Stoker spoke up, asking the question that had been on his lips for weeks. "Any chance I'll get to play with the rigs as a driver?"
"Ohhh, yeah." drawled Martelli happily. "I could use a break. I've got the cones already set out on a spare runway around the first scenario we've got planned to go over with you guys, in the morning."
"Just what have you got planned?" Gage asked of the chief.
"A stationary jumbo jet aflame, with all passengers exited. A mock hot tire blow that got into the hydraulics." replied Joe.
"Oo, messy." Hank winced in sympathy.
"It's not so bad. We have a clean formula to burn around the fuselage." the square shouldered and square jawed Chris Rorchek replied. "Smokes a bit,
but then again, that's the point." "Speaking of smoked. These ribs are terrific." said Stoker, eyeing up their food host.
"Thanks." said the bass voiced Harris. "My father was a top notch sous chef. One of the best in all of New York in his day. He taught me everything I know." "Including firefighting?" Ted Rorchek chipped in, baiting.
"No, dad hated fire, only liked it at heel under his meal, if you know what I mean."
laughed the big African American firefighter. "He always told me flames are best small and tamed, not big and wild. But I liked that side of things. So I went seeking it out. And soon, I found taming fire back down to the tiny is exactly the spice of life for me."
"It shows." said Marco, hefting up a deer steak bite in token respect. "Can I get the recipe for this?"
"Sure, the cards are in the Dalmatian cookie jar over there." said Harris, pointing with a knife. "I made copies for anyone who wants them."
"They're almost gone." said Green, reminding him yet again on an old subject.
"Really? Now how'd that happen?" Rags smirked, pleased that he had his fans.
"The tower boys raided our frig last night while we were sleeping." Martelli told him.
"Made off with a few choice items. Like the TV remote and your recipes."
The smile wiped right off of Harris's face. "Those lily livered.." he bubbled.
Chris, Ted and Rags instantly mourned the lost electronic, promptly forgetting all about food.
Joe grunted in amusement. "You boys and your wars. You all deserve each other."
Chet's eyes lit up. "You mean there's a hot practical joke battle going on?"
"The very thing." Ted grumbled, mad at being outmaneuvered once again. "Between us, and the control tower."
Kelly face melted into a feral grin. "Ooo, Cap. Permission to pounce?" Chet asked.
Hank snorted.
"What's he talking about?" Chris wondered, looking at Hank while pointing a fork at Chet.

Cap neatly set down a folded napkin and fixed the bigger Rorchek brother with an arched brow. "You're looking at a station clown with the worst reputation in all of the Los Angeles County Fire Department." Cap attributed to Kelly with respectful head bob. "If you turn Chet loose on your target bunch, I guarantee they'll never ever bother you boys again once he's through with them."
Rags, Chris and Ted leaped out of their chairs and grabbed Chet out of his by the seat of his pants, and both arms, hauling him away with them to the radio room, unmindful of his protests at being kidnapped from a plate that still had one last tasty rib left on it.
Chief Joe smiled, enjoying his uninterrupted meal with zest. "Yep, we firefighters fit right in with each other no matter where we go."
"Woof!" barked a large dog loudly from somewhere nearby.
Hallie reached over and snagged Chet's food. "Here, Sophie. Have a bite." she said,
tossing the meat over to a large spotted Dalmatian that came sailing into the room as if she was psychic. "He's done."
"Not by a long shot." sniggered Gage.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: The Station 51 gang in street clothes by a fire engine.

Photo: The Code Red crew by an engine, promo shot.

Photo: Stanley Ave street sign at an intersection.

Photo: The Bobbique restaurant, actual location.

Photo: A white New England cottage surrounding by a flower garden.

Photo: Lush flower beds with neat landscaping and brick paths.

Photo: Chief Joe Rorchek by a white brick wall.

Photo: A fireman preparing venison steaks.

Photo: Fireman adding hot sauce to a pot of chili.

Photo: Al Martelli and Ted Rorchek chowing down hungrily, standing.

Photo: Chris Rorchek and Ted Rorchek by a food pot, seated.

Photo: Rags Harris tasting his own cooking.

Photo: Hallie Green smirking an oh, well grin, hair in a bun.

Photo: Chet Kelly, looking up to mischief.

Photo: A dalmatian dog seated by a fire engine.
*************************************************** Subject: Orientation.. From: patti k ()
Sent: Fri 7/24/09 12:03 AM

Chief Joe Rorchek cocked an ear, but didn't pry when a very satisfied Ted,
Chris and Rags returned with an equally flushed and laughing Chet from the radio room a few minutes later.

"We got them good. They didn't know what hit em when Kelly boy here spoke up declaring a----"

Hallie Green crowed, interrupting as she held up a freshly baked apple pie for all to behold. "WahhhHHHHooo! Dessert anyone? Let's celebrate our latest victory in the war." she said, looking up from the noisy television set that she quickly turned off.

Kelly scratched his head. "What war? Viet Nam?" he said, still clearing everybody's lunch plates.

"No, dude. The practical joke war we've been suffering due to the control tower guys putting one up on us all the time." said Al Martelli, the Italian.

"No suffering any more. They've run permanently. I've guaranteed it." Chet said proudly.

Gage's ears perked up with horrified reluctance. "What'dya do?"

Kelly merely pursed his lips and made a smug it's-a-trade-secret gesture and all three of his fellow Code Red conspirators zipped their mouths shut, protectively bright, with very high admiration for their jokester guest.

Johnny frowned unhappily, remembering his own days as Chet's target.

The chief cleared his throat derisively which was echoed by one of Hank's rumbles that caused an instant halt in all jovial conversation. In his black jacketed arms, Joe carried training materials for Station 51's men and deftly, he began passing them out to the California firemen.
"Once we've all eaten Hallie's sweet, you'll have just an hour to study all the materials in these packets. Then we'll give you a more detailed station tour and get you all fitted with your own specialized hazmat thermal gear. As guest actives, you must be familiar with the entire airport layout by 1500 hours. Sorry, the airport commissioner's orders." the senior, white haired Rorchek said, holding up his hands lightly as the others moaned their dismay. "Settle down. I promise this won't be boring. I've spruced up the usual lecture with a new lights and sounds slideshow."

"Really?" piped up Rags, the big African American firefighter. "Terrific."

Martelli smacked him for being a smart aleck.

Joe smirked acidly, but in good humor as he began when the lights were dimmed after the equipment was ready. "Long Island Mac Arthur Airport covers an area of 1,311 acres which contains four runways and two helipads. We use blue dyed Avgas 100LL and clear to straw colored JET-A for our aircraft fuels exclusively."

He showed them file photos of the black and white stripe marked Jet A fuel tanks versus the clearly blue labelled and painted Avgas ones.

Joe's eyes roamed the table as the others studied the images he quickly projected onto a white brick wall near their shared table using a cable wire clicker.

"Our Airport's FAA Identifier is the initials: ISP. And our standard holding pattern altitude is 1099 ft. MSL." he shared. "Probably not a fact suited to memorize but handy to know nonetheless when listening in to live approach and departure radio traffic, don't you think?" Joe added craftily in a hint. "Chris.. would you take over? I'll dish out the pie. Only I can do that fairly.."

"Hey, I protest.." said Hallie, pouting, hefting up a gooey serving knife.

The others chuckled.

"Okay, it's true." she shrugged, plunking down into her seat politely for the rest of the presentation.

Joe licked his fingers after doling out all twelve pieces of the pie.

The tall, dark haired muscley older son of Joe, the fire chief, took up the slack neatly. "In your folders, fellas, is a list of our radio frequencies on a laminated card. Please read them and then keep it with you at all times. We'll be using this information frequently during tomorrow's fuselage drill."

-
Main Airport Communications is CTAF: 119.3 LONG ISLAND GROUND: 135.3 [0600-2300] LONG ISLAND TOWER: 119.3, 335.5, 124.3, 239.3 [0600-2300] NEW YORK APPROACH and DEPARTURE: 118.0 EMERG: 121.5 or 243.0 -----------------------------------------

"Our airport's manager is Theresa Ryder. She's in possession of a radio linked to our station's first emergency frequency listed on the card, at all times."

"I have a question for you. ISLIP's huge. How do you keep ahead of all the crime and medical transports when you get them?" asked Cap.

Chris grinned toothily, pointing westward out a glass window to where a wind sock was blowing in the cold, cloudy air. "The Suffolk County Police Aviation Section bases a Law Enforcement and MEDEVAC helicopter at the airport. The base is staffed 24 hours a day by Police Officer pilots as well as a newly hired, experienced Flight Paramedic employed by Stony Brook University Hospital by the name of Steven Beck. The SCPD works alongside the Town of Islip MacArthur Airport Police to provide law enforcement and security for us."

Gage piped up with active interest. "Police pilots? Would any of them be a girl sheriff named Morgan Wainwright?"

"I'm afraid not." said Chris. "All the ones I know who work here are guys." he replied.

"Oh. Too bad." Johnny said crestfallen. "I've got a date with that particular girl later." he explained eagerly.

Roy leaned into Gage and nudged his shoulder. "Don't brag." he stage whispered.

Nobody else noticed the exchange as Chris called up image after aerial image of several planeview overheads looking down onto the airport.
"We have at any one time, 255 aircraft on the field. One hundred fifty eight private single engine aircraft, twenty six multi engine planes, forty seven jet airplanes, sixteen helicopters, private and commercial shipping, and eight military aircraft." Rorchek explained.

"What are they doing here?" asked Hank curiously.

Ted Rorchek, Joe's youngest son, spoke up, smiling with amusement. "Don't know. Their missions are always kept a secret."

"Maybe another war's gonna break out." mumbled Chet worriedly.

"One's enough." Marco complained to him about Viet Nam.

Chris began to lick his lips, thinking about the dessert waiting for him in the darkness. "Uh, Ted, you want to take over?"

"Sure." said his brother, pushing away his empty pie plate.

The shorter, light, feather haired firefighter took away the slideshow clicker from his sibling's open hand and continued on for their California firefighter guests. "We average about 499 aircraft operations, landings, takeoffs, passovers, or aborted approaches per day, come rain, snow or shine."

"Whew, and I thought LAX was busy." mumbled Marco.

"Mac Arthur is framed by four major roadways. Railroad Avenue N, Lincoln Avenue E, Lakeland Ave SW, Smithtown Avenue W, Veterans Memorial Highway 454 S. See the maps taped to the front of your folders."
Ted prompted.

The gang did so, as Hallie turned on a small light on the stove so they could see better.
The youngest Rorchek smiled, indicating a new aerial image on the wall. "We're much more than just runways and airport terminals. We're a fully functional industrial complex at MacArthur. We have aircraft hangers that have welding and cutting operations, which hold flammable liquids used in paint stripping. We have a major fuel refinery with its extensive piping system, two restaurants, a taxi and bus station, one hotel, a minor medical clinic, and a great height communications array which we share with a television broadcasting station. We have a power plant, and both bottled and bulk oxygen storage tanks located in buildings adjacent to many active power and fuel sources."

Joe Rorchek piped up, speaking from the darkness where he sat, still paying close attention. "To organize and navigate such a complex set up, we operate all positional references based on an alphanumeric azimuth grid system. In the event of an emergency, copies of this daily will be distributed to all control tower personnel, emergency response vehicles and ambulances in our service area, between our own fire rescue teams and to any others with legal, legitimate interests by couriers."

"You mean, like the press?" Kelly guessed unpleasantly.

"Like the press." Joe agreed equally vehement emotionally. "They may not be allowed to film any accident scene, but they can talk about it all they like. Getting facts straight about where and what things are called on the news if anything bad happens, is still very high on Theresa Ryder's list, for the public's sake."

"I guess." sighed Chet and Martelli together.

Ted imparted more for the Station 51gang's orientation lecture.
"As airport rescue and fire fighting personnel, we have to know color coding systems for all aspects of aircraft fueling and their runways traffic markings. As guests, you only need to know just the one when driving out there. This yellow triple band/bar and line pattern that you see here. When you see one of these on the pavement anywhere, at any time, stop on less than a dime and immediately look both ways. For seeing one in front of your bumper means an aircraft's coming in front of you from a perpendicular direction, from either the left or the right in less than a minute and a half." he warned.

When he felt that their firefighter guests had effectively learned the marking, he clicked back to the asimuth grid map from earlier. "The runway names at ISLIP are based on the degrees of a directional compass. Their names at each end are the degree headings the pilot must enter in order to follow that particular runway's exact parallel from its two available relative approach directions."

"Wow, so he's given a navigational clue long before he even sees the airport?"
Lopez asked.

"That's right. Some of these newer pilots coming in need all the help they can get. We're very near several flight schools." Ted chuckled. Then he rapidly clicked through several sheets of typed instructions. "Don't sweat these slides I just rushed through. You'll be learning all of our flights routes and landing and takeoff procedures tomorrow when we get a tour of the control tower." the short light haired firefighter said.

During the next pause, Mike Stoker raised a questioning hand. Ted called on him,
by pointing.

Stoker asked. "I'm curious. What kinds of apparatus and equipment do you have here that we don't have back home in California?"

Ted lifted his chin, peering around the kitchen. "Rags, where are you? You're better than me on that subject. Want in?"

"You bet." boomed the big bass voiced chef turned fireman. The burly dark skinned man started in eagerly, catching Stoker's interested eyes with his own.
"Our basic equipment is pretty much the same as yours at home. We have only minor differences in protective gear. We have higher temperature and aluminized hazardous chemical tolerance grades, Levels One through Four. But be clear that none of them can withstand any direct fire contact. Tool differences are serrated axes for metal cutting, and mobile water tender vehicles that we can deploy to be feeder tanks for either foam or water attacks. Our handline hose techniques are the same as the ones you guys are already familiar with but we use them just for interior aircraft operations or enclosed building fires only. And we have industrial strength large size pneumatic air bags which we can utilize to lift large aircraft or debris. Easy enough to use. The higher you need something lifted, the more bags you fill. Just back up your lifts with normal cribbing."

Joe Rorchek turned on the lights suddenly and he faced everybody sternly with thoughtful hands behind his back. "For standard operating procedures here,...at no time during any actual emergency, will any guest firefighter personnel be out of their self contained breathing apparatuses." he ordered directly.
"Consider one a permanent feature on your body to go along with a pair of thermal gloves you'll be receiving in the morning. For you two paramedics especially, heed my orders. If we all get a call and fire victims need ventilating, use a positive pressure valve mask from a separate air or oxygen resuscitator instead of donating your own air masks. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir.." said the whole gang. Even Hank.

"Harris, sorry for interrupting. Go ahead." prompted the chief, flicking off the lights again.

Rags, clicked to another photo slide showing images of an aircraft on fire.
"Once fire is burning actively at an airport, all the air visually contaminated by smoke is automatically toxic due to the amount of fuel and chemical hazards we already have present in the areas that may have been compromised. Planes don't burn cleanly like most other structures do."

He showed everyone a closeup of a stock image of an impossibly bright burst of plasma around a doomed mock fuselage during an exercise.
"An aircraft crash is also a location of a lot of magnesium fires which burn far hotter than regular fire by many magnitudes. A mag fire is one that only certain chemicals put out. Water reacts with magnesium, causing large explosions and the spread of more magnesium ignition points as you know."

Eagerly, Engineer Martelli broke in. "Recently, us ARFF have developed a powder called G-1 that we can hand shovel onto mag fires to knock them down."

"Wow, a mag supressing dry chemical that isn't sand?" Cap asked, amazed.

"That's right." Al told him happily.

"How much is needed?" Hank wondered.

"Only half an inch at the minimum." Martelli told him. "I've seen it work really fast on a test fire."

Rags nodded, too, continuing.
"Guys, our firefighting vehicles are larger than most non-airport apparatus that you might have seen, we're fully armoured against thermal radiation, with high pressure nozzles/turrets on all sides, including under the chassis to prevent any spreading fire from burning the under carriage. They can also provide two different extinguishing agents at the same time. We use either water/foam.. or Halon 1301."

"What's Halon 1301?" Mike Stoker asked. It was a new technology to him.

Hallie replied, as she cleaned up empty dessert plates from the table quietly. "It's a clean agent that leaves no corrosive residue inside electrical gear or computers when used. It vaporizes quickly into clouds that break the chain of almost any combustible reaction in progress chemically and by actively displacing physical oxygen still in the air."

"Uhhh, so we can't be in an enclosed space when its used?" asked Chet.

"Not unless you want to suffocate." Hank said from the corner of his mouth.
Harris didn't laugh, letting that dangerous warning soak in.
"Our foams of choice are two kinds. Alcohol Type Concentrate and Aqueous Film Forming Foam, which can be used with either fresh, salt or brackish water. Both float on fuel, spread fast and both have a bleeding effect which cools down burning materials continually as they get agitated by the flames. Also, they self seal when disturbed, like soap bubbles, locking out exposure to the open air."

Joe Rorchek added another caution.
"A side note. Be very familiar with what refill containers your training firefighter shows you and their differences tomorrow. If you were to accidently combine ATC and AFFF in the same tank, a gel forms that clogs up a turret nozzle allowing only water to escape. And that's the last thing we need on a fuel fire that's still near any of our people."

"Oh, telling point." breathed Marco in horror. "I saw a rookie flare up an oil fire in Burbank once with a water line. He almost singed his captain in the process."

The others cringed.

Mike sat up straighter at a slide shot of one of the airport fire station's trucks in action.
"What kind of nozzles do you use? I can't tell."

"Strictly nonaspirating. We've found they provide greater water pressures and can deliver their streams much farther out from the trucks." Al Martelli replied.
"Our first in vehicle of choice out of our two crash response trucks is the RIV or rapid intervention vehicle. It has the ability to get to an incident site, three minutes after receiving the initial alarm call, to anywhere on the airport grounds. It's designed to extinguish the fire before rescue personnel enter the effected aircraft or structure."

Hallie looked up, gesturing at the well lit garage bay shining through the window at them from the top of the stairs. "We also have various smaller rescue and medical units we can deploy for strictly medical calls not involving heavy extrication or fire." Green shared as she began to wash the dishes she had gathered quietly.

Joe looked at Station 51's men one by one.
"Keep in mind that all of our trucks can lay ground sweeping foam or perform roof mounted turret attacks, so if we get a Code Red, hop into the first one nearest you.
It'll be good enough."

Chris, the tall brother answered the question that was in Roy's eyes, unspoken.
"Also in any emergency, we have a doctor on stand by who can fly out to us on very short notice from a nearby county park's hospital to oversee any serious medical call that might need a paramedic."

Johnny lit up in sudden recognition at an idea. "Would her name by any chance be Joanne Almstedt?"

"Yes. That's right." Chris replied, surprised. "Have you met?

"You can say that for sure. We're.." Gage smirked cattily, opening his mouth.

"...well aquainted." broke in Cap. "We hunted the park before we came here and did a few first aid assists in between." he explained, clearing out his throat before Gage embarrassed them all with another Don Juan story.

"Oh. She's nice." Chris agreed, suddenly dreamy.

Johnny frowned.

Joe Rorchek stood up again, taking the slide show control from Martelli's fingers.
"I'll finish up here. This next bit's very important to get down right the first time."
he ordered, not being offensive.
"Light signals. Learn these next five. In the event of a power out, the control tower will use the following signals using a naval light gun. Flashing green light- Clear to proceed down runway. Steady red light- Stop. Do not enter. Flashing red light or flashing runway lights- Clear active runway or landing area immediately. Flashing white lights- Return to fire station or starting point. Alternating green/ red flashing lights- That one is not so specific. It's a general warning. Exercise extreme caution."

The chief ended the slide show visuals and Rags got up to turn the main lights back on full. "Our back up sister station is the Holbrook Fire Department at 390 Terry Boulevard. That's seven blocks directly east of our location from the airport. They have three substations. Headquarters (Lighting Engine Company, Jupiter Truck Company & Fire-Medic Company) housing 1 engine, 1 tower ladder, 1 heavy rescue, 2 ambulances, 1 brush truck & numerous first responder & support vehicles. Sub-Station 1 (Sun-Vet Engine Company) is located on Church St west of Broadway Ave housing 2 engines & 1 mini-pumper & a van. Sub-Station 2 (Eagle Engine Company) is located on Patchogue-Holbrook Rd & Greenbelt Pkwy, houses 2 engines, 1 ambulance & 1 mini-pumper. Josh Tyler is the top chief. He's a good man. His call sign's on your cards."

Joe invited the gang to leave their dishes for Hallie and follow him down into the cavernous vehicle bay below them. He led them by each huge fire response truck in turn as Al Martelli and the others each took a truck and fired up their lights and interior consoles for their guests, for show.

The chief added onto his talk.
"Halbrook Headquarters is our secondary command center of choice if a safe one cannot be found at the airport during an actual incident."

Cap asked the question. "Has one ever occurred here at ISLIP?"

"Yes. On April 4, 1955, a United Airlines test flight crashed shortly after take off at MacArthur. The flight killed everyone onboard which included three crew members. The coast bound lost control soon after take off." Chris added.

"What was the cause?" Cap wondered.

Joe sighed sadly, pointing to a photograph of the wreckage framed and hung on the brick wall near them. "The investigators finally decided it ten years later. They ruled that it was most likely a bird strike."

"Didn't the control tower notice flocks flying overhead that day? You're so near the ocean." Marco remarked, startled.

Chris shrugged morosely, remembering his airport's history.
"We didn't have a decent radar back then to differentiate a flock from just minor wind activity. If we had, we would have aborted that take off immediately, mister. It was a telling mistake. We finally got our specialized radar two year later when the military moved in. It was their official offer for some space to set up a base of operations. They've been here ever since."

"Will they be deployed in the event of a mass casualty call?" Hank asked.

"Yes. They'll shuttle supplies from the medical clinic to where we say and fly patients and bodies out as needed to area facilities." Joe answered.

"Bodies?" Chet gulped.
"I'm afraid so." Al Martelli told him.

Joe studied the ground and shuffled one well polished shoe. "Crashes at airports have a high risk of incurring fatalities, no matter how soft an impact impaired planes might experience. They're very fragile things."

"Hmm.." Kelly mumbled.

Marco leaned into him, whispering. "Think about it. A jet airliner is essentially a tin can on a rocket fuel tank surrounded by fresh oxygen and an electrical power supply."

"What a scary thought. No wonder I don't like flying." Chet gaped.

"We could always go back to snail slow hot air balloons and zephyrs." Marco suggested.

"That'll really be a boost for the sake of progress." Kelly said sarcastically.

"In about fifty years." Mike Stoker piped up.

"Shh, I'm trying to listen.." said Gage, hanging on Joe's every word.

On a different tack, the white haired Rorchek looked up. "That's all for tonight, boys." said the chief, sensing that he was losing his audience. "Shower, hit the head, change into your uniforms, and then Rags'll drag out the medical gear so Roy and Johnny can familiarize themselves with what we use. We have a busy night in store for us. The terminal's at peak capacity. It's the usual crunch "holiday"." he remarked dryly, using local talk.

"Oh?" asked Cap. "Which?" Hank and the gang didn't get the joke the other ARFFers were groaning at.

"It's a Monday. Glad we all got in a solid meal." Joe replied wearily, shrugging as he headed for the radio room. "See you fellas later for the 1800 hours staff briefing back upstairs? It'd be nice if we got one in before the radios start jumping with mundane medical calls."

"You got it." Hank said for all of his men.

--------------------------------------------------------

Photo: ISLIP airport and control tower.

Photo: Halbrook Fire Department's bay.

Photo: Airport firefighters getting a lecture in a vehicle bay.

Photo: Chief Joe Rorchek in front of white brick.

Photo: Airport Fire Engineer Al Martelli lecturing formulae.

Photo: A side view of a lime yellow airport fire response vehicle in a drive bay.

Photo: Roy and Johnny commenting on something in front of them, wearing street shirts.

Photo: The ISLIP fire and rescue logo.

Photo: Stoker and Marco listening to someone intently in a dark room.

Photo: Long Island Mac Arthur Airport's runway map.

Photo: Chris Rorchek, airport firefighter, looking serious in a close up.

Photo: ISLIP airport's glass dome terminal.

Photo: A busy airport concourse at a terminal at ISLIP.

Photo: Ted Rorchek and Hallie Green looking sarcastically dismayed at the news of a busy night to come, seated at a table.

*
Subject: Storm Presence.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Thu 7/30/09 9:33 PM

Roy and Johnny saundered into the kitchen area where another pot of steaming soup had been placed on the table with ample hard rolls for dipping along with decanters of strong coffee. They helped themselves, knowing the food was a buffer against some new weather that was moving into MacArthur Airport's immediate neighborhood.

They eyed up the windows of the firehouse observation deck overlooking all the runways with an appraising eye.

Joe Rorchek noticed. "Snow for tomorrow morning. But that won't be the ongoing issue for the tower boys then. The ocean fog around three a.m. will be the telling factor. We get an inversion layer this time of year that obsures even our high intensity lights. Arrivals will be running on instruments only. And when the ground's warm and the air's cold above, we usually get some minor icing problems on the smaller airplanes on approach. Their ailerons have a tendency to get stiff and slow to respond. Might make for a few sticky situations for any new incoming pilots not yet familiar or comfortable with our runways' non-traditional layout. One or two newbies usually freak out and require a flyby or two for a missed landing."

"What happens then, for us, staffing wise?" Roy asked.

"We might roll out for those calls as standbys, running dark so any passengers won't see us waiting in the wings."

"It'll be that bad, eh?" Kelly remarked.

"That's not bad at all. Just the usual standard operating procedures cautions. Pilots have to learn how to fly somewhere, don't they?" Ted chuckled.

Joe bit into a bread roll with relish as he doled out his soup. "The control tower gets a little nuts on the radio during the first hours of gray out and we're gonna leave them entirely alone for the duration, being the nice professional little airport firefighters that we are... Isn't that right, boys?" he hinted to Ted, Rags, Chris and Chet in a warning to stave off any future planned prank calls or security camera tampering that they had currently percolating on the back burner for their practical joke rivals in the control tower.

"We're angels, chief." Harris promised. "See our halos?"

"They're glowing." the elder Rorchek quipped. "Keep them shiny."

DeSoto had a question. "If Johnny and I have to use any controlled medications, where do we resupply? At Stony Brook Hospital?"

Joe shook his head.
"We have a pharmaceuticals cabinet downstairs, locked. Here's the combination." he offered, writing down the number sequence onto a piece of paper from his pocket notebook. "It's located next to the squad's diesel pump, west side wall. It's blue. You'll also find our medical oxygen cylinders stored on a rack there adjacent. The paramedic med use forms are in every truck and on a slateboard hanging by that cabinet. If you need a doctor or more paramedic backup, just use your handheld radios and ask for them. They'll respond in person to you usually within four minutes."

"How come?" Gage asked, surprised.

Hallie Green spoke up, grinning. "We've no hospital base station set up at Brook for us per se. Our administrators order on scene interaction when it's needed since we have several necessary radio black out regions in the terminal so the control tower can operate freely without radar interference. A biophone would screw up the works or just get entirely masked over."

"I hadn't considered that." Johnny said honestly.

Joe snapped his fingers, remembering something else. "Oh, another thing. Any ambulance or chopper crew you summon, will find you automatically. Security always escorts them in to the medical or fire site."

"Thanks." Roy smiled, taking the slip and putting it in his pocket. "Your gear's very standard from what we saw. With a few unexpected extras."

Gage laughed. "Yeah, like those instant heating pads. Didn't even know they made em that big."

"Our service area gets a lot of low body temperature incidents. Even on just injured employee calls. Most folks who work out here are running around in the weather for their whole eight hour shift and some regular "offenders" never ever seem to find proper time enough to eat for refueling when we get our busier periods." Chris shrugged.

"Boy did we learn that this weekend with a couple of kayakers." Hank said. "Felt the strain ourselves a few times."

Gage cleared his throat uncomfortably, remembering his river diving experience.

Cap didn't look at him nor did he clarify that point to spare Johnny some still fresh embarrassment.

"Hence the soup." Harris rumbled, pointing to their meal source. "It's a permanent fixture on the kitchen table every fall and winter." Rags said, stirring the big pot lovingly. "I keep it full and steaming, twenty four/seven. At my expense."

"Wow, thanks." said Marco.

"No problem. Just keep yourselves warm and healthy, and I'll be happy." he nodded seriously. "Some of the runway crew are starting to take me up on my open invitation. You might see a couple of shivering strangers coming in here every once in a while to chow down. Let them."

"Can we throw a blanket or two at them while they're here?" Roy smirked.

"Feel free." Rags said. "That's what Hallie does. They never yell at her. She's a girl."

"Who says?" Green protested. "I get a lot of trucker mouth attitude on a lot of days."

"Yeah, but then they hush up fast when you throw only a smile at them." Al Martelli said.

Hallie preened. "Huh." she smirked happily."Guess it's my Southern charms. Take a lesson from me."

"No thanks. I covet my tough New York City exterior." said the curly haired engineer. "It makes people listen. They all just get out of my way whenever I'm driving in my trucks."

"They get out of the way because our fire trucks are monsters, Al." Ted teased.

"Whatever.." Martelli scoffed, slurping his soup noisily, mock offended.

Green leaned into the Station 51 gang. "He's really a softie." she whispered.
"Only wants to be tough."

"Oh, you mean like Stoker here?" Johnny quipped, pointing across the table to where their own engineer was peppering his minestrone.

Mike blushed.

The phone on the wall rang. Al and Chris had a race to see who answered it first.
Chris won. "ISLIP Fire and Rescue.." His eyes glazed over as the operator connected him. Then his expression dawned in understanding. "Oh, ok. The dark haired one who's naturally tan? Yeah, he's right here. I'll put him on." Then he cradled the receiver in his hand. "John Gage? This is for you."

"Me?" Johnny puzzled. Then his whole face lit up. "Maybe that's Morgan!" He said brightly. He clapped his hands together in celebration with a hoot.

"Hiya sweetheart. Are you keep your rotors hot? I miss you so much I'm aching." he said, taking the phone from the tallest Rorchek, who scoffed laughed as he walked away when he overheard that remark. Johnny frowned at him, not getting the joke.

Dixie McCall pulled the phone away from her ear on the other end of the line to save an eardrum or two. ## I guess I miss you, too, Honey Buns." she guffawed.

Gage immediately colored. "Oh! Geez. I'm SO sorry, Dix. I thought you were--"

##..somebody else. I can just imagine.## she drolled in smokey amusement. "So, how's it going out there in Winter Wonderland? You boys having fun yet?"

"Just getting started." Johnny said, suddenly switching on the speaker phone so everybody else could hear the conversation. "We had a couple of first aid assists with some of the rangers at the park, but nothing big. And get this. Chet bagged his first deer! Smile! You're on speaker."

##He did? I am? Well congratulations, Chet! I think I'll bum a steak or two off you when you get back.## Dixie's warm voice said, filling the kitchen.

Kelly chuckled. "You got it. How's tricks?"

## Not cooking. Rampart's been slow. Dr. Brackett's doing his usual manic thing climbing the walls in the ER, harrassing all the nursing students again. Joe's on break. And Dr. Morton's busy with the second call of the evening. A kid with a bean stuck in his ear.##

"Rivetting." Gage quipped. "We're just eating and getting all aquainted over here."

"Like a fish to water." Cap amended.

Gage sniggered. "Yeah, practical jokes and everything. Boy, was this phone call a surprise. We're sure glad you called just to check up on little ol' us."

##My pleasure. I was bored and, the whole place just isn't the same without you fellas drumming up some business, so hurry back.##

"Don't rush us. We've a whole, brand new occupation to learn." Cap laughed, cupping his hand over his mouth so his voice carried.

##So learn fast!## Dixie fired back over the intercom. ## Then don't use it in real life or I'll start to fret if I hear about it on the news. And that's the last thing I need. I've already had too much coffee.##

"There's always Narcan." Roy teased her.

##Funny man. Joanne says hi. I just spoke to her. She was bored, too, with both the kids off to camp.##

"That was planned." said Roy.

##Yeah, but you're not together.## McCall chided lightly.

"We have the rest of our lives to do that once the kids graduate college and move out. There's no rush." DeSoto told her, amused. "I could say the same thing about you and Kel, if I wanted to be real nosy."

##Probe away. And I have an answer for you, Roy. I don't think Admin would like it too much if a doctor and his nurse were to act like an item while we're still on duty.##

Chet jumped on the bandwagon. "Yeah, but you guys get off duty. Same as we do."

##Not this month.## Dixie snorted. ##Upstairs so far, has scheduled us completely opposite, the evil witch.##

"Dixie!" Johnny chided, surprised at the comment.

##Well, it must be true. Just the other day, she called down asking if I was happy just for the sake of argument.##

"Oh, yeah? What did you tell her?" Stoker wondered, biting his lip in amusement.

##I told her that if she was looking for a place to sharpen her pencils, her brand new office was plenty good enough, without getting overly defensive.##

"That's pretty neutral." Hank agreed, smiling.

##D*med straight. And she got the message, too. Hopefully Kel and I can start having breakfast together by the beginning of next week. Well, got to go. Looks like a baby with the sniffles just walked in.##

"See you later, Dix. Bye bye." Gage said, and he hung up the phone.

"Formidable woman." Ted pursed his lip.

"That's our head nurse back at home. She trained both Johnny and I in as paramedics." Roy shared. "We all love her as better than a good friend."

"I can tell. Wish our nursing staff at the hospital were as friendly." Hallie said.
"Ours seems to have a thing against paramedics. They say it should be outlawed that there are people outside of the hospital setting, who are practicing medicine."

"That's insane. We save a h*ll of a lot of lives." Gage gaped.

"That's what we keep telling them." Chris said. "But they won't listen."

Johnny was suddenly rapt and very serious.
"They will. They did back at home enough to start us out." Gage insisted. "Maybe it'll take something big with EMS and Fire all working in action together, out here,
for them to start changing their tune."

"I hope that's not the only way to prove our worth." Joe mused. "I simply refuse to believe that there isn't one person in town at the hospital who doesn't have an open mind. And I've always been a strong advocate for paramedics in the firehouse."

"Here. Here." said Cap. "Took me a while myself, but now I love em."

Just then, Steven Beck walked in, the flight paramedic from the medical center.
His parka was wet with icy sleet and he was soaked to the skin. "Ah, the Station 51 crew. Just the men I wanted to see." Then he turned to Joe. "Chief, I think we have a situation developing."

"Oh?" Rorchek entoned, suddenly standing. Both men headed for the radio room.
"Steven, has the CT issued an alert for your choppers?"

"No. We've just been grounded by the weather."

"Let's go." Joe gestured to the others. "Whatever's going on is sure to involve all of us."

Everybody abandoned their soup bowls and followed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the control tower, things were far from peaceful as full night fell over the airfield.

Gene Skidwell, the supervisor on duty, grabbed another microphone from the counter. "CN6541, do you copy? Tune to audio and listen for one of the four following beacons.
"OLD FIELD POINT LIGHT at 189/10.9 316 13W OP." And he played its signature over the airwaves in Morse Code. " --- .--."

" BABYLON at 074/14.9 275 14W BBN " -... -... -."
"CLERA at 193/35.2 362 14W JWE " .--- .-- . "
"or BRIDGE at 081/38.1 414 12W OGY " --- --. -.-- " " he shared calmly.

Mike Porter, the air traffic controller who had alerted his boss a few minutes earlier,
kept filling Gene in. "Steven Beck radioed that he had seen an aircraft off course over the ocean while he was landing. It's gotta be them." he said, fingering their current target's trajectory on the radar scope underneath his fingertips. "Any voice reply back at all?"

"No. But their transponder's working just fine and so's his altimeter. It looks like he's just a little side stepped." Skidwell gathered. He toggled the master switch again. "CN6541, do you read? This is ISP CT on CTAF: 119.3. Respond to our directive. You are off course."

There only came static.

Skidwell ran his fingers through his suddenly sweaty, thinning, gray hair.
"All right. Communications fault or not. This is oddness personified." Gene made a decision. "Roll the fire station. Code Red, all equipment." He sighed in stress trying to relieve it. "We're all but blind here." Then he bit his lip, ending his quick thinking, but delaying anse. "I know, we can put the military on alert to intercept for a visual."

Mike startled, and his shock of brown wavy hair was sent rippling.
"What? We've never used them that way before. Not in the whole history of-"
Porter minced, indecisive because a normal flying plane, was remaining silent.

"Just do it!" Skidwell spat. "And tell them I don't know what runway yet."

Mike Porter scrambled to carry out his orders.

Gene immediately hit another button on their console that sent an active emergency alert out to all incoming aircraft. He backed up its automated signal with a vocal message. "All incoming flights to ISP. Holding pattern. I repeat. Holding pattern. We have an inflight emergency. Switch to 121.5 EMERG for further information. All pending departures: Halt. Come to a complete stop off all runways. Then wait for further instructions. All flights in range, clear the airwaves. This is ISP CT issuing Emergency Protocol Index B."

-
The red phone on Airport Manager Theresa Ryder's desk rang just once before she picked it up. "Ryder here." she said tersely, sitting up a little straighter as her eyes automatically flew to the window facing the airfield. "Gene? How bad is it?"

##As bad as hypothetically possible. A small inbound with twelve souls has an electrical problem and is offcourse fifteen nautical miles out over the ocean.
They aren't responding to any hail but neither are they losing altitude.## Skidwell informed her. ##I've cleared the skies and stopped ground taxis to free up the runways.##

"Have you rolled the equipment?" she asked.

##Yes, a minute ago to stand by. But... I want to take this a step further.##

"I'm listening."

## Let's get a recon jet in the air to find and guide them in visually. ##

Theresa's nervously roaming fingers, trying to light a cigarette, dropped both.
"Can we even do that?" She said, grabbing her short black hair.

There was a pregnant pause on the phone. ##We can always ask. Beacon signals aren't getting through according to our instruments. We think.....they may have a small systems fire on board.##

"Well why haven't any of their instrumentation panels picked that up yet?" Ryder demanded, finally shaking off her too tight business suit jacket for more breathing room.

## You know how some of these smaller corporate jets are run. Big on luxury, short on- ##

"...maintenance repairs. Yes I know. The bane of my existence. But they generate good revenue. All right. I'll call the white hotline to the military base and explain the situation. Oh, Gene, before you go..." she said before he hung up.

##Yeah?##

"Start praying. We need all the help we can get."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Ted and Joe Rorchek looking worried in the vehicle bay.

Photo: Roy and Johnny leaning on the squad with the engine in the background.

Photo: Dixie talking on a telephone.

Photo: Cap, seated, discussing an issue near a file cabinet.

Photo: A fogbound plane in the air, listing.

Photo: A black jacketted flight paramedic, looking up in a close shot.

Photo: Gene Skidwell, air traffic supervisor, wearing a head set, listening.

Photo: Mike Porter, a young air traffic controller, panicking in a radio headset.

Animation: A spinning radar showing contacts with one displaying a Mayday signal.

Photo: An airport control tower, surrounding by gray gloom.

Photo: The airport fire station rolling out, at night.

*
From: patti k () Sent: Mon 8/31/09 11:16 PM Subject: The Basics.
Cap eyeballed Joe as they all gathered into the communications room.
"Chief?" he asked, prompting.

The silver haired Rorchek nodded. "Okay, guess we won't be having that drill in the morning, boys. Time for seat of the pants shortcuts." And he eyed up the Zetron. "We're so far, still only at Alert 1."

"Which is?" Stoker wondered.

"An aircraft is being reported as having a problem inbound." Joe replied, rolling out a large map of the airport. "Study this, we'll be framing our vehicles around any scene if it happens upwind and uphill if possible. All the runways are tilted down east to west to drain precipitation." Joe told Station 51's crew. "So remember your orientation along the margins."

Then he cast his eye on the ever present weather radar over his desk. He sighed heavily. "It had to be pink. And it's coming in fast."

Marco frowned in confusion.

Roy leaned in and explained it. "That's ice. Radar blue or green, is snow or rain."

Lopez raised his eyebrows. "I've never noticed pink before."

Martelli snorted. "That's because you live in California. In the rest of the country, we know what winter can do really well."

"Shielded, eh?" Hallie chuckled good naturedly about their guests.

"Only in meteorology." Lopez smirked, shrugging.
But then, the seriousness of their situation wilted the youth off of his face. "Ice is probably like oil this time of year. Slippery.. and-"

"...heavy." Ted Rorchek piped up. "It weighs down all aircraft. Even those still in the air. Workers have to use chemicals to free it from plane wing and tail flaps constantly during a sleetfall. And that's what this is." he said,
pointing to the cancerous pink building over their part of Long Island.

Harris looked worried.
"It's the worst it can be. I'd rather it be harmless snow. That only clogs landing gear on actual touchdowns and shortens pilot visibility." Rags said. "They can fly completely blind with their instruments. But not with a couple of tons of extra weight building up on top of them."

"Not fun. I got the picture." Cap said grimly. "Joe, my men and I are worse than green at all of this. How are we going to team up for a response?" Hank asked the chief.

"One of yours to one of mine. Paired. Except for four. I'd like Mr. DeSoto and Mr. Gage working together with Hallie and Ted in case there's a triage or search and rescue situation. They can all watch out for each other and still work effectively as Hazmat firefighters, too, as an alternate." Joe decided.

"Agreed." Cap nodded. "How about me?"

"Act as Safety for me. I'll be the Incident Commander if there's a crash. But I promise you, we're not going to be alone for this. I'm calling Holbrook now." he said, picking up the phone to their sister stations in Patchogue. "They're not wired to the tower through a Zetron panel like we are."

All the firefighters got to work preparing partnerships and memorizing the map.

-
The corporate commuter jet CN6541 seemed packed with people from nose cone to tail. Businessman Don Estridge leaned over to his associate partner and laughed. "Only twelve of us bought onto this trip, eh?" he joked to Christian Meier. "If I get another elbow in my face, I'm gonna strangle that cocktail server." he grumbled, still rubbing his face where another businessman had bumped him in the turbulence they were experiencing.

Meier grinned ruefully. "Free liquor. And we don't have to drive. Chauffers, remember?
If I wasn't going home to the wife and kids, I'd be snockered, too, along with the rest of them. Shush on the waitress, Don, she's only doing her job."

"For the tips." Estridge scowled, trying to read his newspaper over the jostling they were receiving from the flight.

"So were we a few hours ago. And we're rich. Only our company could have struck that deal and you know it." Meier insisted, youthfully passionate.

Don rubbed a few weary fingers through his greasy, thinning hair. "All I know is my flipping stomach. Aren't you the least bit motion sick by now?"

"Me? No. I've a stomach of iron. I'm used to flying into this airport. They got land sea breezes that'll curl your hair sometimes." Christian smirked as he checked out how well his blond Superman look was holding in the glint of a chrome cigarette lighter.
"So how far out are we? Seems like things are taking forever." the older Estridge groused, wiping off his sweating face with a hankerchief.

Christian studied his expensive watch. "Hmm. I can't see ocean down there, but it's six thirty five. We should be landing in just under ten minutes. Tops. I promise." he grinned. "I found our ace pilot myself. He's good. He's real good."

"Tell that pilot my stomach wants him to level us--- Ohhh!" Then Don paled.

"Don?" Christian asked, dropping all pretense of humor. "What's the matter? You aren't kidding. You're really sick! Tell me what's wrong. I- I'll get a doctor. We've gotta have one on board, you know how attracted they are to the stock market. They follow us like moths to the--"

Suddenly there was a scream. "Fire!" Another female voice took up the panicked cry.
"In the bathroom! Somebody help!"

Estridge groaned and suddenly began to gasp. "Oh, great. Just what I need. A BBQ."
Then he stiffened up in his seat. "Meier, you get that doctor. I don't think this is indigestion." he winced. "Ah,... my chest!"

Christian was torn between wanting to rush over there to the sudden excitement at the front, or stay with his friend. He decided to let the eight other men in suits handle the lit cigarette in the garbage problem. One already had out a fire extinguisher. Meier gripped Don's hand and found it cold, clammy. He made a decision. "Geez, Don. You're really not good. I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere.." he stammered, climbing and then almost falling out of his bucket seat, adding his own emergency to the first one. "Hey! Somebody listen! Is there a doctor here? I've got a man most likely having a heart attack in 13B!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Cap looking concerned by a fire station bay door.

Photo: Ted and Joe Rorchek in the duty room, tense.

Photo: A control tower Zetron alarm notification machine, lit red.

Animation: A radar of inflight aircraft blips with two in very near collision.

Photo: A nervous, smoking Don Estridge, business in a passenger seat.

Photo: Christian Meier, youthful entrepeneur, being served a drink by a server on a flight.

Photo: Fire burning across the ceiling of a jumbo jet.

Photo: Don, slumped sick in his seat, a female passenger looking scared nearby.

*
Subject: Tempi.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Fri 9/04/09 1:03 AM

In the deep gloom of the ice sleeting sky, a military jet appeared like an even darker smudge just out of range of the distressed business jet.

Its pilot levelled off fifty feet from a wingtip and slightly below CN6541and attempted to open immediate communications. First it waggled wings to assess the jet pilot's physical condition in that universal aviation speak of howdy.

The corporate cessna waggled back and her emergency air masked flier gave only a modest thumbs up about flight ability through the windscreen.

The military pilot nodded and then aimed a light gun up through his plexiglass cockpit, flashing colors.

The corporate pilot brought one out likewise in the form of a modified flashlight with green, red and white filters. Morse code ruled the next few minutes mixed with FAA color signal sequences which shared volumes in moments.

When they were done, the military pilot pulled clear for a bit and radioed home with his findings.##Alpha Nine to ISP. Contact made. Pilot is still in control, but there's been some damage to navigation and her onboard radio due to an electrical short. That resulted in a fire in the biff, now extinguished. Air quality's fair in the passenger compartment. But there's another complication, a medical emergency on board, a man whose current condition's unknown at this time. The pilot doesn't know for sure about him since he had to seal off the flight cabin for safety because of smoke.##

Airport Manager Theresa Ryder patched the incoming audio report through to the fire department's intercom so that they could hear the live transmission on delayed play back. ##ISP: We read you, Nine. Think you can guide our jet down visually? We've cleared runway 24 for your use and clearing your immediate airspace is next. Equipment is ready.##

##Roger that, ISP. That's up to their pilot to see if he can follow me. I copy, it's a go#
reported the military man. ##Our current position matches your radar.##

##Mark.## said Theresa, locking down the latest screen grab from her live controls.
##I confirm. Radar is clear and active. Good luck.##

## I'll try and swing back to take a look at the passengers, maybe I can learn a little more about their sick man by looking into the plane.##

The military ace eased back and leveled even with the wing of CN6541. Inside,
he saw pandemonium through a haze of diminishing smoke. A pair of businessmen were crouched on the floor near an empty seat and the pilot could see a back bobbing up and down. He raced quickly to the front of the commuter into talk position and flashed an urgent message for the flier to follow him as quickly as possible. Then he radioed the ground once more with another update.

Hesitantly, with sluggish dips and turns, the mid sized cessna obeyed without question.

Theresa received a last transmission from the military pilot that made her eyes bulge out in disbelief, about the CPR. But then she got to work. Her fingers danced over her computer as she composed an automated notification alert. Then swiftly, Ryder activated the second alarm on the Zetron remotely to the control tower in an electronic order, for them to share with her firefighters.

Then she picked up the red phone. "Tower, alert TRACON to our emergency on my authorization. Call their regional FAA Control Center and have them step up helping us divert all traffic well away from ISLIP. We have about a minute before they're in possible impact range over inhabited neighborhoods."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joe Rorchek looked up as a brassy klaxon sounded on the wall. His display screen changed to having just one graphic on it, which he pointed out to the others. "We roll. Double mission. Possible preventative crash and then a resuscitation to follow. Move out!" he shouted. "Three miles is less than three minutes."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Military jet flying overhead.

Photo: A commuter jet flying in cloudy conditions.

Photo: A man receiving CPR by businessmen.

Photo: An aircraft emergency warning on a computer screen.

Photo: Chief Joe Rorchek looking tense in a closeup.

Photo: Roy and Johnny wearing turnout, at the airport, looking up.

*
Subject : Lull Before The Storm.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Tue 9/08/09 10:41 AM

Quickly, both gangs outfitted in Hazmat silver with turned on scba air inside their suits as they piled into the massive semi automated airport apparatuses and strapped in.

Roy, Johnny, Hallie and Ted climbed into the smallish red Fire Rescue truck laden with the medical and extrication equipment and they all roared out into the growing storm.

Already, in the distance, they could see all three Holbrook fire station companies' lights rushing down a busy avenue toward one of the airport's outer gates by the guard shack.

Joe Rorchek went live on helmet speakers, handy talkie and intercom. ##Truck 2 lay full foam with your under turrets on the downwind leg side. Don't lose any speed. Truck three, up the middle. Truck four, terminal side opposite, same thing.
Stagger for safety and overlap your foam application. I don't want to see any bare pavement. We've time enough to do one pass before we have to abandon.## he ordered.
##Holbrook, sub stations 1 and 2, position mid point in case they miss R24 completely. Holbrook HQ send your ambulances to the end of the runway off field. The rest of you join up with us upwind. Direction is easterly at twenty with ice. No deviations. Tower is tracking.##

Rapidly, their configuration was laid out along the runway just as the Code Red trucks finished blanketing the entire runway course in thick, smothering foam over the icy glaze the weather was depositing.

Chief Rorchek barked final orders when they reached the end of the runway. ##All right, clear. Clear. Clear! CR : Regroup midway flanking. Let's hope for a bilateral flame out. Everybody, keep all your spots on the foam strip to show the pilot. He's gonna have to make some adjustments with flaps while on that.##

An eerie silence returned as the hissing of the last foam nozzles died away to leave just the sound of gusting winds and rustling sleet pellets that were raining down onto their windshields. The bloody haze from their emergency lights cast far into the night, creating a surreal bubble of warm color, almost like fire, which stained the illuminated foam on the runway pink with light.

In pairs, all the cojoined silver suited firefighters gathered in front of their bulky idling trucks whose automatic aerial turrets stood primed and ready, already dripping with foam.

Joe Rorchek issued instructions globally to their guest team.
## When she comes to a complete stop, these are your orders.
Nobody gets out until all exterior fire is extinguished. Then place your ladders upwind near the evacuation slides when they deploy and get ready to enter and assist people escaping. Busses are on their way to shelter those walking and the ambulances will handle the more seriously wounded. Our responsibility is fire suppression first,
rescue second, then medical treatment last once the plane is fully contained and clear of all the immediate fire and chemical fuel hazards. ##

Nearby, Chet Kelly could see Roy, Johnny, Hallie and Ted in their silver suits bustling about the medical truck, preparing drag and triage gear. He found himself moving a little bit away from his own assigned truck with the biggest Rorchek brother, closer to where those in command stood. He saw they were watching the sky with night binoculars, their handy talkies at the ready in plastic bags, sitting on the hood of their vehicle.
One was tuned directly to the Tower's frequency, on air with CN6541. The air traffic controllers sounded casual and everyday, like a walk in the park. But the plane to which they were directing hails was utterly silent. Its positional coordinates were being called in by the military pilot continually.

A sonic boom splintered the night and pushed against the firefighter's silver suit skins. It was a second fast military jet patrolling the air space immediately over the airport to make sure all other flights were indeed well away from the area with their own portable radar. He was completely invisible to the eye, but manifested to those below with sound concussions whenever he turned into a new vector.

A random glance at the highway to the south showed Kelly that drivers were beginning to see the signs of trouble at the airport through all the red lights. They were starting to slow into gawker traffic jams as they passed by.

Kelly suddenly felt very very insignificant. He mumbled.
"This is big, Cap. This is really--"

Stanley heard Chet take in a very big gasp of nerves and he heard fear choking his voice for the first time in all his years working with Kelly. He pulled his binoculars down and glanced up in surprise. "Chet. Why are you away from-?"

Chet started almost whispering into his hazmat helmet hood. "Cap...I don't know if I can stand here... just waiting... while I watch all of those people .....crash." His voice broke. He sounded sick.

Cap took in one long look at Chet and gestured him aside while the others waited at their positions with their foam and water trucks surrounding the runway that they had coated with retardant.

"Okay, Chet. Here's the trick." And he waved at Martelli to take over observing for him. Al jumped down from the control cab of his truck to take a place next to Joe on the concrete.
"You reach a point where there's so much dog doo pouring down the pipe that you can't worry or panic any longer because you have no choices to make. You just deal with what's immediate.
Tactical rather than strategic level. If the tactical gets too much,
I default to operational. Does that make sense?"

"No." said a very subdued and quiet Kelly.

"It will today. As a captain, I've faced enormity like this situation a few times before in my career. It...I.. hey. Quit snowballing." And he turned Chet away from the growing lights in the sky to shield him.

Chet just stared blankly at Cap, not seeing, but so focused that there was as yet no steam clouding his faceplate. He was licking dry lips.
Finally, he spoke. "What am I supposed to do here?" Kelly sighed, scared. "I don't know what to do.."

Stanley radiated confidence and calm so strongly that it made Kelly blink in recognition. "Basically, you do what you can." Cap said softly and placed a comforting glove on Chet's shoulder. "You let go and put yourself on autopilot."

Kelly bristled, the fear turning to anger.
"That's not very d*mned funny." Chet said, firm and sharp, trying to break free of Cap's firm hold.

Stanley didn't look away, nor did he release Chet's shoulder. He held on.
"Chet, I wasn't trying to be crude. It's a fact. Rely on your instincts, and they'll never guide you wrong. You are far from being a rookie who's still dumb enough to make any mistakes that'll really matter. We'll get through this. And we've got good people here with us who know what they're doing. Follow them like you've followed me at home."

Doubt marched thickly over Chet's features and he looked utterly lost.

Stanley double checked Kelly's suit fastenings and scba flow almost tenderly, like a father. "I'm so with you, pal. You know I am. So let's get what needs to be done taken care of, as it comes. Okay?"

Kelly, still pale and stiff, just nodded. But Cap saw that he was no longer so afraid.

Cap smiled.
"All right then. Go take your position by Chris. He's looking for ya.
Looks like our plane's about to land."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Silver suited airport firefighters manning a rooftop foam turret.

Photo: An EMT firefighter donning a helmet and scba.

Photo: Yellow airport fire trucks lining a runway at night.

Photo: A whole tangle of emergency response crews and vehicles by a large building at night, lights flashing.

Photo: An airport control tower's view out, at night.

Photo: Airport workers evacuating off a tarmack in a golf cart.

Photo: A lime yellow fire and rescue truck moving fast along a runway.

Photo: Firefighters getting out of a truck, suited in silver.

Photo: A white helmeted Chief Joe Rorchek issuing orders over P.A.

Photo: Turnout garbed Cap next to Chet, crouched and waiting, with a radio.

Photo: A helicopter flying by an airport control tower.

Photo: MacAuthur Airport's red and silver Fire Rescue medical truck.

Photo: Roy DeSoto squinting hard in a helmet in an icy rain.

*
Subject: The Reach for Earth.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Tue 9/08/09 1:08 PM

Roy DeSoto, Johnny Gage stood quietly by Hallie Green and Ted Rorchek. There was very little left to say. Plans had been made as to how they'd maneuver backboards or scoop stretchers down the narrow airplane aisle. For the arrested man, they decided to just grab him and go if there were no signs of injuries in any of the other passengers.
Johnny asked the next question. "Is there a defibrillator on the plane?"

"No." said Ted. "We'll be lucky if they were able to even get their medical oxygen going. They probably didn't knowing there was an electrical fire on board."

"He doesn't need it." Roy said simply. "He's not using up anything yet, only his brain is. Room air's plenty if they're working on him."

"That's if the air's still breathable. Even if that fire's out inside, toxins are building up. Plastics probably melted down in the wiring spaces from its origin point." Gage said, being realistic.

"Hull titantium burns through in less than a minute if things get hot enough. Expect toxic blackouts. A lot of them." Ted told them.
"But there's no chance of flashovers if there are holes in the fuselage."

"Yeah, but what about the air that'll be let back inside once those hatches blow open? That'll be first on the flight crew's mind. To get out."

Ted looked grim.
"Any sparks'll recatch. It'll be up to us to put out the new fire with our hand hoses. So spray indiscriminately over people and everything.
Only then can we extricate the victims." Ted said, no nonsense. "Once a cabin starts to burn, it burns fast and can get to fatal levels of gas and heat in less than a minute. There'll be a team assigned to get the pilot out. Don't bother with him. He's locked in. I've staked down our triage tarp so it won't blow away in the backprop wash. Ready?" the younger Rorchek brother asked his three paramedic companions.

"I got your back.." said Hallie. She looked collected in her yellow turnout.

"Yes."
"Yes.." said Johnny and Roy at the same time as they spied the lengthening plume of light coming from the wobbly inbound airplane and the steadier one from the military escort.

"Okay.. I'll indicate which hatch to go into first once they open. It takes practice to see how the wind'll wrap the smoke around the airplane. People won't go into any if it's blowing into their faces so watch me close. Hallie, you're with Roy on a reel line. I'll take Johnny here as my anchor." Then Ted looked down at his silver covered feet. "If none of those hatches move thirty seconds after halting stop, we'll pry ourselves in. For that will mean no one's been left in any condition to do so for themselves. Be careful of how you're pushing. They may pile up against the door."

Roy grimaced at the image. "Right."

A klaxon began to sound from the control tower and a steady green flashing signal began from a light gun from their observation deck located sixty feet up. It was aimed entirely at the distressed pilot. ::Clear to proceed.:: the signal said.

Then the Control Tower Supervisor's voice began to speak on flight frequency to the business plane through the monitoring radio on Cap and Joe's truck hood.
##CN, do you copy?## hailed Gene Skidwell.

Blessedly, the pilot's voice suddenly broke through. His voice sounded hoarse, and he was coughing. ## *cough* Tower, Cessna six five four one heavy out here in the rain. Feels good. ##

Gene Skidwell's relief was palpable. ##CN 6541, copy heavy. Regional tower one seven left. Cleared to land. Wind zero nine zero at five gusts to two zero.##

The business pilot came in staticky.. ##No before landing check. No time to-- *choke*#

Skidwell forced a focusing point. ##Landing gear?##

The pilot replied quickly. ##Down, three green.##

The military jet reaffirmed that report with a visual check out of his flightglass.
##Confirmed.##

Gene Skidwell acted as a remote first officer to the hard breathing pilot to calm him with familiar protocol. ##Flaps stats?##

CN6541 answered. ##Thirty three, thirty three, green light#
Gene grinned, satisfied as he spied the plane finally in his binoculars.
##You got good legs, don't ya?"

The pilot coughed again. ##I don't have a DME on mine.##

Skidwell confirmed the malfunction. ##You haven't had it for the last five minutes. Wash that off a little bit.## he joked.

The pilot chuckled but then he strangled. "Ah, this smoke.. it's gagging m--##

##Concentrate CN6541. ## Gene ordered. He readjusted the gain on his emergency frequency to make sure his voice was being heard.

## Yes.. I am.. Uh,...a thousand feet. Seven sixty two in the baro.##

Gene radiated confidence. ##They're already called out for you.## he said about the fire department and emergency services.

The pilot sighed. ##All right.##

##Watch your speed...## encouraged Skidwell. ##Touch down now..##

Tensely, the moments crawled by as the plane began to sink lower towards the dark ground, leaving the military jet above as a cap and speed double check.

## ..idle! ## shouted the pilot suddenly, feeling a sudden slip.

Gene stayed calm. ##You're gonna lose it all of a sudden.## the tower supervisor warned, about the foam.

##... there it is. *cough*.. ## came the pilot's weaker, stressed voice. ##Feels okay.. ## Then,... ##Ahhhh!*gasp*##

Horribly, the plane bounced up again and lurched, tipping toward the fire trucks,
its landing gear spewing ice, foam and steam as the pilot desperately tried to brake on the surfactant.

Skidwell ate his microphone. ##Hang on to the son of a b*tch#
## What's your vee ref? ##

There was a sharp snap then and the pilot's channel went absolutely dead.

"Not now!" shouted Gene.

All eyes in the tower shot toward the runway as the military pilot dipped lower and activated his loud speaker over the still half and half airborne, bouncing airplane. ##Runway heading: 059 magnetic, 045 true 239 magnetic, 225 true.... Obstruction: 38 ft. tree, ahead1340 ft. at end of runway. You are 350 ft. left of centerline, but on course. There's a 16:1 slope to clear. Really deploy your flaps to compensate. Relax your lift! You're already past the updraft from the powerplant! Good. Now.. Brake! Brake! Brake!##

Gene held his storm interference dead mic and issued the same order fervently as he heard the military pilot's takeover broadcast come through his fire department channel. "...Brake d*mn you. You're down..." he whispered as well, wishing and hoping.

------------------------------------------------

Photo: Stricken airplane pilot in close up.

Photo: A pilot's hand on an airplane's throttle levers.

Animation: A plane lurching in a bounce off a runway.

Photo: A closeup of moving landing gear on wet pavement.

Photo: The glow of a complex control tower radar and mic panel.

Photo: Gene Skidwell, air traffic controller in a closeup wearing a head mic.

Photo: A military pilot looking down through his cockpit glass while in flight.

Photo: An emergency airport fire truck projecting a straight stream of foam.

Photo: Cap, Stoker, Chet and Marco looking worriedly into the sky in helmets.

Photo: Ted Rorchek and Hallie Green in yellow helmets, looking up with fire extinguishers.

Photo: Gage looking up into the sky, wet and scared.

*
Subject: Crack An Egg.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Thu 9/10/09 1:34 PM

Gravity claimed its own at a desperate voluntary drop in velocity as CN6541 finally hugged the Earth and stayed there despite her high momentum.

## Let's go, people! ## shouted Chief Joe Rorchek to his fire crews monitoring the handy talkie operations channel as the brake roaring, tire rolling airplane flashed by their positions. ##We're following, but not too close. There's still the small chance of a flip! Avoid their backwash.##

Sirens peeling, the four light flashing rescue apparatuses lumbered onto both the runway's edges, rushing hurriedly for their still rough taxiing target. They were assisted by two of Holbrook's and a pair of their ambulances.

Above, the military jet received orders from a superior at his base on the far end of the tarmack. ##Alpha Nine, return to base. Clear the aerodrome.##

##Roger that..## replied the jet pilot who had escorted the corporate plane home.

Alpha Ten reported in. ## Ten to base. Radar's still clear over land but precip's getting too thick to probe out over oceanic coordinates as ordered.##

##That'll do. Break off your aid. Control Tower says its handling. Land at will, Ten.##

##Roger base.## he replied, breaking off from his protective circling over the airport.

CN6541 screeched to an ungraceful halt fifteen yards from an impact barrier,
nose crooked, like an ungangly swan. Silence enveloped her as all of her engines were sent into emergency shut down in the night time darkness. Soft ice landed with a sploosh into the foam under her wings with small plops as left over friction heat quickly melted it.

Joe saw as they got closer, that the lights in the passenger cabin sputtered, and then they went out. ::There's still fire somewhere on board.:: the chief thought in alarm. ##Lay a blanket foam over them with roof turrets! Full aperature.##

All four responded with straight streams that began to fountain out, sweeping back and forth in turns over the smoke opaque windows and skin of the airplane.

Gene Skidwell continued his hails to CN6541 on a new system. ## CN, this is TC. Do you read? Respond an equipment and passenger condition report. CN, do you copy?##

Cap, sitting next to Joe, hung onto the dashboard of the big foam truck Martelli was driving as they pulled up into position. "The pilot's probably been overcome or he's abandoned his seat by now."

Martelli grinned. "Yeah, but he got her down. Now it's our turn to set things to rights."

Cap lifted his radio. ##Everybody double check your air status before moving in from upwind!## He stepped down from the cab of the brightly lit truck as a bouquet of spotlights from every available vehicle illuminated the steaming jet. Then he spotted something, a dark spreading stain under the tail that was tearing apart the older foam eroded from the sleet on top of the concrete. He raised the alert. ##Fuel spill! Tailward! Cover the stuff ASAP before--##

A hatch behind a jet wing flew off the airplane as a gray emergency slide erupted from a rear exit hole. The sharp metal edge of the ejected door landed on the ground, with a bright spark. It ignited the pool of fuel leaking from CN instantly into a roaring nimbus of fast spreading mushrooming fire. The inflatable slide popped from flames contact, like a grotesque balloon, and withered away with the smell of burning rubber and Jet-A.

Joe, near Stanley, could see hastily flailing arms in the curtains of the airplane hatch. Rorchek thumbed a megaphone as he backed up to give the other trucks room to work fast around him. ##Stay inside! Do NOT jump! The slide's gone!## he broadcasted through his silver Hazmat suit.

Moments later, Cap and Joe saw the soot stained businessmen heed the warning and restrain themselves from acting. He saw an unmistakable wave of acknowledgement from one of them, which was a good sign. They were still thinking clearly inside the plane.

Then Rorchek turned to his portable radio. "Any of the other hatches opening? That's the worst spot for an egress." he shouted, his face glowing in the hideous light from the ground fire. "It's downwind of the pavement smoke."

## No, Chief. ## came the replies from his and Cap's men. ##Only that one.##

"Okay, there must be a reason why they've come back here to escape, abandoning the other hatches. Call for a rolling walk and a motorized step up from the terminal !
Let's assume a front end fire."

##We're on it!## somebody replied. It was Holbrook, sweeping in with support foam.

##I also want portable scba for the passengers. Masks and bottles. One for each when we're ready to evacuate them.## Joe added.

Slowly, inch by inch, the fire burning on top of the fuel on the pavement was pushed away from the airplane and smothered with a liberal coat of AFFF until it was out. The flames were gone, but thick scorching black clouds continued to rise due to lingering heat and they swirled thickly about the aircraft's tail end.

Cap was ansing to come up with a faster solution as he kept his back to Joe's,
monitoring their surroundings for other dangers. "Lifenet?"

"Too dangerous. We'll utilize one only as a last resort. We've got time. None of the passengers have worked themselves into a panic yet." Joe replied.
"That means, they either can't see the internal fire, or the smoke's venting out adequately through that opening." Rorchek bit his lip. "Rescue Eight. See if you can locate the pilot visually through the nose glass. He may be the only victim we might be able to spot clearly at this point." he ordered, eyeing up the smoke darkened row of passenger windows running the length of the plane. He saw a suited Marco Lopez and Rags Harris move forward in their red vehicle with one of them crouched on an aerial basket already extended over their hood.

Marco shouted urgently. ##He's in there. I'm seeing a white shirt. He's not moving.##

"Get him out. The tail fire back here's extinguished." Joe told his guest firefighter.

##10-4. Going in.##

Stanley chimed in, watchful and full of warning.
"Whatever you do. Do NOT open the flight cabin door. The other passengers are keeping well away from the service area. There may be more fire there."

##Gotcha, Captain, sir.## said Harris. ##Smashing glass for a snatch.##

Rags deftly maneuvered the fire rescue truck to use the ram mounted at the base of the foam turret to splinter the transparent canopy of the plane over the empty first officer's seat. The whole shell gave way in a tinkling sheet of shattered safety glass in seconds with just a soft touch.

The sudden cold wind and still building ice rain did not revive the unconscious pilot.

Marco reached carefully in from his basket as soon as he had covered the cockpit's sharp edges with a tarp. He groped for the pilot's skin with a glove and pushed, looking for refill. Another glance through his faceplate confirmed reactive pupils and slight breathing. ##He's alive.##

Johnny Gage responded over the frequency. ##We're standing by with oxygen in the ambulance approaching you. Marco, is he injured?## his voice was muffled by a hazmat suit and scba mask.

##No, he's still belted in.## Lopez shared through layers of his own. ##No bleeding.##

Rags radioed to Marco. ##The safety's easy to release, just press the big button in the middle of the four X- straps. They'll all open at once. And the lap belt's will be normal. Just like an automobile's.## he said from the truck's driver's seat.
Marco looked over and nodded, but he could barely see Rags silver gloves gripping the steering wheel.

##Found them.## Lopez grunted, straining to reach around the flight controls. ##Hope the brakes are still on.## he said, pulling the shock sweaty limp pilot towards his chest to tie on a safety belt and line.

##We've chocked the wheels..## Stanley promised. ##Plane's going nowhere. ##

::Come on. Come on. :: thought Joe, glancing up the runway toward the distant terminal. ::Where's that wheeled gangway?::

Inside the lead ambulance, silver suited Roy and Hallie worked fast to lay out medical equipment for the pilot and the cardiac arrest victim. Johnny Gage was still sitting in the driver's seat of the rig, looking frustrated in his bulky chrome suit as he, too, searched for the airport workers driving the access gangway. He finally spotted it moving slowly, but groaned loudly as he saw it stop about sixty yards away in the upwind safety zone, by a clump of fire trucks.

Hallie spoke up as if reading his mind. "They've got to trade off with suited up firemen.
Don't worry. It'll get here." she grinned, setting up an I.V. deftly despite her hazmat turnout and gloves. "And then we'll get our first patients to evacuate to the medical center on the tarmack."

Gage turned to look at her through the care taker's access door. "That place got enough staff on duty for a possible thirteen casualties?"

Hallie shrugged, looking small in the suit surrounding her red and yellow fire helmet.
"We've got a doctor on duty. We can get more in a heartbeat if we need them. And Steven Beck's there. That flight paramedic. Remember him from the station? He's the guy who rushed in to tell us about spotting our CN off course. Between him, you, me, Ted, Chris and Roy, us six ALS's and our one doc's probably enough to get everybody triaged and shipped out to the big city."

"That cardiac's gonna take at least two." Johnny said, still not happy.

"Any two firefighters can do CPR and ventilate. One of us can handle him alone then for his meds, shocks and intubation." Green deflected. "Tell you what.. I'll call in for a pair of pumps now." She lifted her radio. "Ambulance One at the nose to IC. We need a resuscitation team on standby to work the MI."

Joe Rorchek responded. ##I've assigned Chris to treat the pilot along with Rags and Lopez. Sending in Chet and Stoker to your position.##

"Copy that." Hallie grunted. Then she pegged big blue eyes at Gage. "Feel better now about us, Cally boy?" she said, mock gruff with all real firmness.

"Much." Gage grinned lopsidedly.

Roy just started laughing from where he was setting up an EKG monitor and leads.
"Gage, pacified by a lady. That's a first." he said, steaming up his silver head cover.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Fire engines on a runway.

Photo: Hazmat firefighter suiting up.

Photo: Night shot of a plane with a tail slide deployed with silver suited firefighters and hoses.

Photo: A red rescue fire truck spraying foam on a runway fire.

Photo: A jetliner on fire at an airport.

Animation: Firefighters in scba spraying foam out of hoses.

Photo: Mike Stoker geared up in metal cutting equipment.

Photo: Al Martelli looking tense at night in scba.

Photo: Silver suited arff fighting a plane on fire.

Photo: Cap issuing orders in scba to his men.

Photo: Hallie Green and Ted Rorchek in red and yellow helmets.

Photo: Chet Kelly and Marco Lopez in turnout with HTs.

Photo: ARFF ambulances at the site of a evacuated aircraft at night.

*
Subject: Dante's.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Thu 9/10/09 6:21 PM

## IC to Ambulance One. ## came another hail, breaking their amused reverie.

"Go ahead." said Green to the chief.

## Passengers are avoiding the front. Vacate the area and rendevous with the hatch crew and their victim a healthy distance away. I've got Ambulance Two handling the pilot.## There was a long pause but soon Joe came back on the air again. ##Then you can ditch your suits, Hallie.##

Green made a face. "Did he--? Did he just read my mind? That's just....scary." she scoffed, surprised.

"10-4, IC. One out." replied Gage through his HT. He stepped on the accelerator and left the nose rescue operation for a point nearer the Halbrook support trucks. He passed by the gangway going the other way. Five silver suited ARFF were operating the machinery. "Looks like they're going in. Wish we could join them at that hatch."

"We'd only get in the way." replied Roy. "Chet and Stoker will keep him oxgenated and circulating while he and the other victims are moved over to us using that platform." He reassured, still gripping the paddles of their already warmed up defib in his palms.

Gage looked dubious. "I hate being triage."

DeSoto eyed him up. "I know. You're a dyed-in-the-wool rescue man. But have a little patients." he joked, deliberating using the wrong word.

"Oh." Johnny, said, making sure the patient care cab was being heated richly with a few checks of the driver's instrument panel. "I'm amused."

"Do you two always rib each other like--" She broke off suddenly.
Green was watching intently through the back loading doors of the red ambulance, and her suit glinted in headlights as Ambulance Two hurriedly pulled up next to them. It was Chris and the others with the pilot. "Hey... Guys, they're set. But something's up."

Hallie flung open the doors to meet them. Roy shut them again for her thoughtfully as he and Johnny both joined her at the rear of Two. Harris inside, opened the new rig's doors quickly. "We need another suction flange kit. Ours clogged." Rags told them.

"I'll get it.." said Hallie, rushing to hand them several from the first ambulance's supplies.

"How's he doing otherwise?" DeSoto asked, looking in at Chris, where the paramedic firefighter was still fussing with the pilot's in-place oral airway with a manual bulb.

"Just smoke inhalation." the oldest Rorchek son replied. "His O2 sats are basementing so we're helping him." he said, tipping a head at where Rags had resumed waiting with a rich oxygen flowing ambu bag. "His EKG's SVT but stable."

"Good." Johnny said. "I'll radio the doc's area and let them know you're coming first."

Hallie returned swiftly with the white plastic wrapped kit.

"Appreciate it." said Chris. He blinked eagerly as soon as he took the badly needed tubes set from Green. "Ooo."

He bit it open and gave a new tube a bigger size to Marco. Soon Lopez had things in order and was working."I'm getting air in fine now." Rags said after his fast vaccumming. He smiled as he watched Lopez abandon him quickly heading back for the steering wheel. "Nice work, fireman." he complimented.

"No problem. I hate the sound of half choking." Marco replied.

Chris sighed in relief. "Boy I'm glad we stopped. Your stealing from a second rig as a solution was definitely faster, Marco." Then he changed the subject. "Where'd Ted get to?" he wondered, asking One's crew about his little brother as he double checked the pilot's clear airway.

Johnny spoke up. "He's back with the break-in crews, waiting to treat the worst.
We saw him after we were ordered out of the danger zone.." he groused.

Chris raised his eyebrows and sighed deeply. "Man, I don't know how Dad keeps track of us all." he said, jiggling his spare accountability tag on his suit as he studied his patient's arrythmia bleeping monitor.

"He's been doing head counts since long before you were even born." Green quipped as she and Johnny leaned on the step up bumper from outside. Ice rained freely down their suits. "I'm sure you and Ted were hardly a whereabouts challenge for him even growing up as hyperactive little kids." she added.

The bleeping died away.

"Okay.. V-tach's settling down. Crisis over.."
Chris shot her an I'm-stabbed-clear-through but light look and then he quickly closed the doors tightly to keep out the growing cold.

"Marco.. Take off!" Roy said, slapping the rescue truck on the back doors.

They watched as Ambulance Two bore the pilot down the runway, escorted by an airport security squad. They headed for the medical center that was waiting with their entry doors already wide open. The welcomely lit entrance, framed by support staff watching amid a row of thickly blanketed gurneys, was clearly visible through a break in the heavily sleeting rain.

DeSoto allowed himself a sense of great relief.

But then business took over.

## This is IC to all units. CN6541 is fully evacuated. Move in for tear down and secondary suppression. Alert the medical center that the passengers are on their way in less than five.## Joe's voice reported on air.

"I got that." volunteered Gage over the airwaves. Then he radioed that information ahead on the EMERG channel after switching off main.

Minutes went by with little change at the scene that they could see, but then the gangway carefully arrived to Ambulance One with the jet's entire cluster of coughing, emotionally distressed business people and its two hostesses. They all had shed their outer jackets back on the plane and every one of them was shivering violently from the elements. Fire tarps were no help keeping them warm.

A pair of firefighters had the cardiac arrested man loaded into a plastic stokes on the operator's platform and Kelly and Stoker were already hard at work over him with aggressive CPR and carefully smooth bag valve ventilations.

Ted was still cutting off the man's clothes and baring his chest. Another firefighter was drying the ice and rain from his skin rapidly with an absorbent pad under the protection of a tarp draped over the palustrades of the gangway. "Get the defibrillator up here on the double!" he yelled. "He's posturing."

On the ground, Roy startled. "Hypoxia?" ::Something must have gone wrong with the civilian efforts to support him.:: DeSoto thought. "I'll go." he told the others. He sprinted up the metal steps with the unit and an oxygen bottle. "Johnny, I'll give him the first shock and then we're down there, conversion or no. Ted says he's severely acidotic!" he shouted down to them.

"Okay! We'll be ready!" Gage replied.

He heard Roy shouting another hurried question as he climbed up the stairs rapidly."What about the others?" Gage heard Roy ask Ted.

The youngest Rorchek answered easily.
"No burns. They can wait for transport to take them in." Ted lifted up his HT. "Hatch crew to IC. We're well clear. Where's that bus? I've got a lot of cold people up here." he radioed as he watched Roy quickly framed the paddles to deliver a countershock to the blue skinned businessman in response to the fine V-Fib that he had read off of them.

##It's on its way in less than one.## replied the chief.

Roy waited as muscles relaxed following his given shock. Then he gathered telemetry data. "No change.." DeSoto reported, paddle reading the man's chest once more. "He's no go. Let's pick him up. Chet, skip hooking up the O2 for now. Grab it along."

"Right.." he said as he and Stoker finished one last set of compressions and breaths.

"Okay, one, two, three. Lift.. Now, run!" DeSoto ordered urgently.

Gage and Hallie got onto their rig again and began to set up suction and their intubation equipment along with some cardiac medications. "Just standing orders?"Johnny nodded at Hallie concerning the resuscitation to come.

"Yeah. No need to call the doc except for an initial patient status." Green replied. "Age, gender, time since arrest, current findings.." she clarified.
"Anything else can wait until we get there. Our job is just to turn him around.
And fly."

"Like a bird." Johnny promised.

He looked up as Chet, Stoker, and another pair of ARFFs rushed the stokes over to them still bearing the arrested man. Gage saw that Roy had set the defib on automatic recharge and it neatly reached full power by the time the man was fully loaded into the ambulance.

"I've got this!" Hallie shouted. "Let go of him. I'm going again." she ordered, picking up the rewarmed up paddles for another delivery. "Clear?" Hallie asked everyone. Heads bobbed. Then the pixie faced firefighter paramedic let loose the second attempt at 400 watts.

The man jerked. Seconds later, though, he remained clinically dead. "D*mn.." Green swore as Kelly and Stoker swiftly reassumed their places and restarted urgently active CPR at her nod. She quickly began to prepare an endotrachael tube for an epinephrine boost.

At the same time, Johnny stooped low to begin finding a viable vein for bicarb.

Gage had just enough time to catch his partner's wave that he was remaining with Ted to start to assess the other passengers, when an ARFF secured the doors shut between them with a firm snick. Johnny felt the ambulance start to move as another ARFF stepped in as their driver to begin the long trip around the crash scene, heading for the medical center.

::Man, I'm glad that's over. :: Johnny sighed mentally as they were driven past the still flameless aircraft. Five lime colored engines were aiming foam onto the jet's outer shell in a ring of ghosty white flower petals while more ARFF crew split open the top and ends to enter the interior. He saw that they had gotten in by side ladders to string along charged reel lines. They were searching for the well reported hidden fire that had as yet, to be discovered ::I really didn't enjoy all that fuel suddenly bursting into flames right in front of me.:: Gage grumbled in his head.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the control tower, Gene Skidwell sighed as the minutes crawled by without any restarting hint of flames reappearing on runway 24. His Zetron panel still read a passenger count of 13. He looked up at his companion controller Mike Porter, with a smirk. "No one's been declared dead yet.
That's a good sign. Isn't it?"

Mike was tense, still gripping his pencil as he watched the rescue operation through closely focused binoculars. "I.. I.. wouldn't know, Boss. To me,
dying of a heart attack on a airplane can't be a good outcome. Especially not after having that same said airplane suddenly bursting into flames. Man, that was awful.. Never in my life have I se---" he broke off when he spotted a familiar looking white light, but in the wrong place on the horizon. "Gene? Do you see what I see? One o'clock low and it's over water."

Gene grabbed up his own night vision pair and moved to that place in their view.
He blanched.. "Oh, sh*t... What are they doing here? Tracon called off all our flights. Didn't they hear us?"

Mike Porter knocked over his coffee mug gone cold as he hastily grabbed the flight channel's out going microphone. "TC to unscheduled flight inbound. I repeat.
Turn away. Do not approach. We've a plane down. Respond please."

Meanwhile, Gene was scrambling with the radar settings. "It's an international.
From Paris.. See?" and he pointed to the blip on their mutual screen. "Still heading right for us."

Then a voice blistered through static over their ceiling speakers. "##...ermission to land.
Permission to...##

Skidwell read their ident swiftly on the transponder screen. "Concorde 35, what is your emergency?" he asked numbly, even as Porter quickly jumped onto the hot phone to call Theresa Ryder.

##...flaps...frozen. Stuck in nine degree declination. Pitching west by southwest..##

Gene's hand slapped down on the Zetron panel, red alert, to everyone wired onto the system as the concerned pilot continued to report in new information.

Mike was still talking to Theresa in her office when he blanched and dropped the phone, pointing out the window. The graceful aircraft was severely tail heavy and headed right for a thousand foot radio antennae at the edge of the airport's infield.

Gene Skidwell snatched up the mic. "To port! Twenty five degrees turn.. Immediate!"

## COLLISION COURSE! *beep beep* COLLISION COURSE! ## came the automated warning from the Concorde over their open channel.

The French pilot turned hysterical. "I can't turn! Look I've been trying to tell you that for the last---"

A bright purple and orange spark fireworked into the wintery night sky as Concorde's wing clipped a radio tower wire, which sliced off its portside wing.... utterly.

Then the thickly ice-locked airliner nosed straight into the ground at high impact and Gene closed his eyes. When he opened them again, a huge slow growing fireball was rising higher than the trees.. And then higher than even them. And he registered something twisted, huge and gray, tumbling directly towards them at two hundred ninety miles an hour.

Both men ducked under their consoles and began to scream as death flashed nearer.

It was Concorde's front half, mangled beyond recognition, skidding on ground ice, directly for the vulnerable Control Tower ...and the terminal. It smashed into three concourse ramps, shoving a fueling passenger plane nose first into the building. Another plane on resupply standby, was smashed through the end of the main terminal,
leaving behind a massive explosion and inferno which burst clear through the roof.

Concorde ended her long journey with her tail, by twisting into the base of the control tower, sheering off its power supply that had been connecting it to the rest of the airport.

Still falling debris from the rest of aircraft tore through the tower's thin dome top and slender sides, touching off fire and structural collapse as fireball after fireball around it shot into the night sky with lurid violence.

Within, Mike and Gene were shaken physically, but unharmed.

But then the weakened ceiling came down and they knew no more.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On runway 24, Joe Rorchek wasn't the only one to spot the initial coming impact. It could hardly be missed as retinal after images burned through his head. He ducked behind a firetruck and grabbed for his radio. ##Take cover! Aircraft falling!##

The very ground shook during the crash and ARFF personnel were jolted off their feet as they watched a second horror at the airport unfold like a sick fever dream from wherever they were.

When the Control Tower winked black and began turning orange with fire, Joe rose to his trembling feet. "Holy mother of--" Then his mind took over his numb body and he began to issue orders.. ##All units. Red alert. Undeclared Disaster at..." His watering eyes took in the damage. ".. Main Terminal, Control Tower, and Runway 15R outbuildings! Regroup! Regroup! All available non-medical units, report to Incident Command immediately#
Ambulance One had simply halted in its tracks. Then the radio message came over their HTs on private band. ##IC to One. Abandon your victim. I repeat abandon. Tag black and report to IC with all personnel.##

Stunned, but knowing the necessity, Chet, Stoker, Johnny and Hallie all stopped work and only opened their ambulance when everyone had fully resuited with fresh air bottles.

They left the business man at the edge of the runway under a tarp, a black tag staked deep into the freezing ground by his covered head. There it fluttered in the wind as the ambulance quickly pulled away with its lights flashing as he was left alone in the dark under the horrific glow of blossoming firelight.

Nobody noticed that the sleet had turned into the lightest of snows, drifting down, almost peacefully, to cover the landscape. As it did, the outline of bodies began to appear in the snow.

Photo: Airport firefighters boarding an aircraft.

Photo: Rescuers carrying a victim in a plastic stokes down flight gangway stairs.

Photo: Air controller spotting a light on the horizon.

Photo: Chief Rorchek radioing for all available in closeup.

Photo: Airplane into a building at night, ARFF fighting fires.

Photo: Airplane into a terminal and damage to control tower.

Photo: Reflection of bodies in the shine of an aircraft's skin.

Photo: Johnny Gage at night, looking horrified with dread.

*
Subject: Pick Up Sticks.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Fri 9/11/09 2:31 AM

"Chief?" asked Gage, leaping out of Ambulance One. He was rubbernecking the horror behind them, but also watching for walking wounded coming in from the darkness. "Seen any victims yet?"

"No."
Joe quickly asked Johnny his first question. "Did you come back of your own volition or did you come back because I ordered you back?" he pegged, almost severely.

Hallie replied, understanding immediately. "We heard you,
Chief." she said with confidence.

"Good. That means OUR repeater tower's not the one that the plane hit. We still have local communications... EVERYBODY!"
he shouted into his megaphone.. "Everybody listen! This is what we're gonna do. Fall in a line and start eyeballing our current and any potentially developing dangerous situations. Find me a way in to those people that's safe, fast, and with good access to the outside infrastructure so mutual aid can get in to mobilize.
And so there's equal space for our ambulances to get out. I want answers in ten minutes. Do not.. I repeat.. do NOT leave this area until I've approved our tactical attack. Is that understood?"

Holbrook's three companies of hazmat suited firemen, about thirty in all, agreed and nodded, hurrying to form a line of spotters along their made safe runway facing the burning terminal, and control tower locations.

Joe kept speaking to them as all the ARFF fought down varying degrees of reaction, positive and negative, to the disaster.

"Now CN6541's a lost cause. We're gonna let her burn. There's very little risk in leaving the aircraft alone unsupervised while she decomposes, for she's sitting on concrete in a secured area.
We'll meet to discuss all our options at 21: 22 hours. Right here."
he pointed to the snow whitening ground before his truck.
"And may the elements favor us in our work tonight." he shouted as the wind inside the snowstorm shrieked briefly in a gust.

Murmurs of determination and a few cries of anxiety punctuated his words, but Joe took them all in and chalked it off as shock effect and autopilot instincts. He knew that he had good men under him. And good neighbors. Now all he needed was a lot of good luck to get through the night and the coming ugly, cold day.

He waved over Al Martelli. "Get on the horn. Call in everybody who wants to come in an assist. I don't care if you have to rouse each municipality mayor and shake him out of bed. I want a firefighter for every three casualties by dawn, or there'll be H*ll to pay."

"Aye, chief.." and Martelli headed off to the fire station's communications room with a rear safety with him in a spare runway jeep.

Joe looked over to Ambulance One's four members.
Chet looked quiet, Hallie stricken, Stoker appeared ready for anything, but Johnny Gage was impatient. He wanted the most out of anyone to get into action. So Rorchek humored them.
"You guys head over to the medical center and see what you can do. I know if that building has just minor damage that Chris'll set up triage and a shelter there. All the medical supplies are right next door in a locked blue hanger along with the ALS choppers." Joe said. "Grab what you need. Here's the key."
he said, passing one over from his belt ring. "Use especially the triage kits for sharing information."

"We're gone." Gage said, gripping his team's arms in support and encouragement through his silver gloves as he quickly pulled them after him towards their ambulance.

Stoker paused before following. "Uh, all right if I move a pumper over there as a standby? That's gonna be a real critical area before too long."

"Get it done." Joe replied. "Stay and man it?"

"My pleasure." Mike answered grimly.

"Grab a partner." Joe told him.

"Right away.." Stoker nodded. He was met with a great show of raised hands. He picked one at random. It was the captain from Hollbrook who finally joined him.

Joe watched them drive off carefully for the medical center.

Captain Stanley rubbed snow off of his faceplate, thinking.
"What's the range of our hand radioes?"

"Only three hundred yards.." Joe replied in stunned numbness at the full impact of what had just happened. It was only now, just beginning to hit him.
"Easy, Joe." Hank said, reaching out to him. "Split up?" Hank asked, keeping things short and clear.

Joe blinked away hesitation.
"Yes. You take half the companies and set up on the tarmack in between the medical center and the terminal. There's a lot of hazards any closer so don't chance it." the silver haired Rorchek replied.

Cap nodded, grabbing another slate board from their command truck and an extra set of HT batteries for the search and rescue pack somebody handed to him. "I'll be sure everyone stays in their suits."

"You do that. There were two full sized airliners over there by the control tower and now they're gone. Bound to be magnesium fires all over the place on top of the aviation fuel dangers." Joe told him.
"And those were both composite constructed jumbo jets." the chief reported.

"I'll duct tape test the ground before I set up to find out how large the hazardous area is. If there are any fibers on the tape when I pick it up, I'll know I've got a problem and I promise I'll keep everybody moving outwards until I don't." Stanley capitulated.

"You know your aircraft." Joe nodded grimly.

"Only the ones I fly in. Scenarios always go through my head whenever I find my self strapped to a flimsy seat in one. What about the Concorde?"
Hank asked, glancing into the void that was somehow blacker than black where the ground was deeply carbonized. He noticed that fire had gone out except for the bits on top of any fuel based organic material. ::People:: Cap grimaced. ::Everything else has vaporized or has already been smothered by the weather.::

"She's done. There's no hope of survivors. Anything moving that fast in a crash wouldn't favor survival in the least." Joe told him. "So we're going to concentrate on our buildings in this order: The control tower;
we need to prevent our airspace from being used again, somehow,
by those still unaware of our crises. The density of air traffic in our skies usually is phenomenal this time of night. Number Two- The terminal; we're slow and low in crowd numbers but not that low. I expect that structure still has anywhere from two to three hundred people inside right now."

The others groaned in dismay and fidgetted inside of their hazmat suits.

Joe held up a glove. "Now luck is in our favor a little bit. The two end concourses involved were under construction today so I don't expect many casualties in those areas. Top priority is securing our safety first, shutting off our utilities second, and doing the most good for the greatest number third. The planes that were grounded over there weren't occupied by the public. They weren't scheduled to fly out until morning. At most, there were minimal support staff resupplying both aircraft and providing maintenance." Rorchek decided.

"How many potentially were inside them?" Hank asked, planning.

"Maybe four each. A cleaner, someone to restock the commissary,
someone to upholster and organize the seat bins, and the last would be flushing the sanitary waste tanks." Joe replied.

"How many down below?"

"One. The refueler. He'd be grounding the aircraft with a wire before standing by any fuel pump..." Joe bit his lip.. "That's if... any fuel pump survived all of that.." he fingered over his shoulder. "And if you add roving security and general stockers and luggage handlers, there could be up to ten people out on the tarmack per plane, if they were even out there in this storm, in those hot spots."

"We'll find everybody we can save, Joe. You have my word on that."
Hank told him. "As one firefighter, to another."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the medical center, Dr. Joanne Almstedt made sure all their outer doors were shut and barricaded against the outside smoke. "We'll use the underground entrance ramp doors for any and all patients."
she said to the main lobby at large. She was still shivering inside of her dark navy parka emblazoned with a red cross. "Steve?" she called out turning towards the chopper paramedic treating one of CN's businessmen. He had a cut over his eye and was complaining of head pain.

"Yep?"

"Could you break away for a second and mark that tunnel with light flashing flatbeds inside so fire rescue can find their new way in okay?" she asked.

"Sure.." he said. "This one's stable. No dizziness." he told her, passing off the man's green triage tag.

She smiled and indicated a chair to the man in the corner away from the outer windows. "The bus will be right back to take all of you to the hospital." she said to him, and his still dazed colleagues. "You'll all be fine."
"We want to stay and help out." said one determined executive. He looked strange in his torn and smoke gritty silk suit, with his hair full of caked fire foam.

Joanne touched his sleeve.
"I'm afraid it's not safe enough for you to stay. But if you leave your information with my nurse here about who you are and what's bothering you medically, that'd be wonderful." she beamed, being quietly polite.

The men immediately moved to the reception desk.

Chris was taping up all the cracks in the glass of the windows in the lobby and the margins along the top, sides and bottoms of doors.
"We've just got to keep all that crap from coming in. We're getting a toxic atmosphere out there whenever the wind blows this way."

Joanne eyed him up thoughtfully as she moved to a sink to wash her hands up for her next pair of medical gloves. "Well, I don't know, Chris.. You're the expert. What do you suggest? We can't just lea--"

"I know that. This is absolutely the best place for what's going on.
I'll think of something." said the eldest Rorchek son.

A voice answered from behind him. "How about mylar? It's impermeable to most gases. And we've rolls of it in the medical supply hanger."
It was Flight Paramedic Steven Beck, returned from his entrance marking mission.

Chris beamed. "Perfect.. Then anybody conscious we bring in here to treat,
can't see out and get any worse."

"Chris, are you trying to be funny?" Joanne asked seriously.

"No, doctor. I- I'm being practical. I know what large scale incidents like this do to people. I worked Three Mile Island, remember?" he replied.
Steven Beck nodded yes.

Joanne's tight expression softened then, in sympathy. "I had no idea."

"Yes, well, uh,...that's over. What's next?" Chris asked. "I've already called my d-- uh, the chief ..and he wants me to be the Supply Officer. Can you take over as Triage Head?" he asked her.

"I will. Steve, wanna help out and direct the other paramedics when they start coming in with patients?"

"You don't have to ask, I was just about to suggest that." Beck said, pursing his lips in stress. "Nobody knows this building and its contents better than I."

Joanne paused for a beat. Then she nodded her head. "Yeah, that's true. You DO know better than me." she agreed. Dr. Almstedt clapped her hands together. "Okay, let's get to work, people. We've got a lot to do to get this lobby and adjoining waiting room prepared. I'll make out a list of what I want and where. First priority is hanging that d*mn*d mylar."

Chris suddenly looked pale. "Oh, crap.." he muttered.

Steve and Joanne, noticed.
"What?" they both asked at the same time.

"I.....just remembered what building's at our backs." he minced worriedly.

Joanne recalled suddenly, her eyes getting big. "Ohhhh,.. don't tell me.."

"Yes, the fuel depot." Rorchek replied. "I think I'd better go check that hanger out for trouble spots."

"Bring a radio with you. I'll be monitoring.." Steve sighed, tossing him a spare that he had scrounged up.

Joanne thought of something else. "What about our power? Will the fire department be turning off our utilities for safe keeping?"

"No, the med center's a critical area. If it's found safe enough, we'll be the last place allowed to go black." Rorchek shared.

"That's good." replied the doc. "It's really hard to do surgery by flashlight." she muttered.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Outside, Captain Stanley got his assignment and his plan of action approved by the chief. It had changed from the original. He was now heading a search and rescue party.
He had gathered together ten other firemen under his wing, all crammed into one of Code Red's Oshkosh crash trucks.
Now they were rolling into the red zone for a little reconnaissance.

As he eyed the damage, he began to feel vulnerable. ::Just what have we gotten ourselves into here? How do we even begin:
he thought, seeing almost complete destruction surrounding him.
Only the shell of the powerless control tower remained intact outside the main building.

Then Hank saw many, many people. Far more than what had been estimated by the chief, through the cracked or missing glass of the main terminal. Only a few were still moving, feebly.
Everyone was covered in blood. And no one, ..was standing.

::Oh my G*d.:: Hank thought to himself. ::We have to get in there.::

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: A plane dumping retardant on an airport fire.

Photo: Flames pouring out of airplane windows.

Photo: A burning block, full of airliner debris.

Photo: A landing gear shorn off on the ground.

Photo: Captain Stanley in a helmet, looking tortured.

Photo: Burning debris and fallen bodies in a field.

Photo: Dr. Joanne Almstedt in a field parka, outside.

Photo: Steven Beck, flight paramedic, standing by an ambulance.

Photo: A lime colored Oshkosh crash truck spraying foam around fallen bodies on an airport tarmack. *
Subject: Ad Hoc.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Sat 9/12/09 10:45 AM

The door from the underground garage ramp connecting to the medical center's lobby, opened.

Inside rushed Roy DeSoto and Ted Rorchek, in full scba gear. Together, they had been checking the exterior of the medical center building for signs of any damage.

There had been none past the cracked glass due to concussions from the initial explosions that they could find.

"Integrity's intact. No fires." DeSoto reported. Then he noticed the bright orange vest labelled Triage Head that Joanne was slipping on from a triage kit. "How many of us paramedics do you want to stay back here to help you?"

"None." Almstedt said, still organizing medical center staffers to tape and seal off windows. "You fellas'll be a lot more effective being part of the search and rescue crews. I'll have help from Stony Brook Hospital's ER Department flooding in before you know it. They've already left to come here in full regalia along with a fleet of ambulances from the surrounding communities."

"Fair enough." said Ted Rorchek. "I've fitted the bus driver with an air bottle and he found himself a fire proof maintenance jacket. I've sent him to shuttle all the personnel he can find out there outside of the danger zone to bring to the evacuation center here. He's got a ham radio on board and can talk to all of his coworkers who have short waves."

"It's a smart plan." Roy said, watching Rags Harris and Marco Lopez begin an interior safety sweep of the medical center. "I'm sure the airport manager will want to know pretty quick who's safe and who's not with her employees working out there in the air field."

Marco waved a hand at DeSoto. "We'll be back in ten minutes, I wanna check their fire panel, and the boiler room."

Rags added another idea. "We're going to look at those office spaces along the outer walls for injuries."

Joanne raised her hand. "Uh, there aren't any, boys." she said. "We used the intercom system and got everybody to report in here for a head count. I also had everybody who had window damage shut their doors."

"Oh, fine then." Harris said. "We'll be right back, Roy." he said as Marco flanked him with a dangling air mask on standby. "Our radios are tuned to your med channel, ma'am. Hail us if you need us."

Johnny Gage and Hallie Green arrived with Chet, but empty handed.

Roy looked up. "Where's our heart attack victim?"

Kelly just shook his head minimally. "We were ordered into strict triage mode."

Dr. Almstedt's eyes flashed. "Yeah, well not in here. We're going to be working ALL non breathers who come in, seeing as we're not on the front lines of this operation. We've plenty of help."

A sharp blast of a fire apparatus air horn from outside grabbed their attention.
It was Mike Stoker along with his fire captain placing themselves into position as a safety between the red zone and the medical center. The Holbrook captain thumbed a radio mike. ##What's the status in there structurally?##

"We're pretty sure it's safe, cap." Roy replied using his talkie. "Just making sure."

##Fair enough. We'll start cooling down this concrete at the fire's edge to give you guys a larger buffer. Staying on live speaker. Okay, let's go, Mike.## he said to Stoker, who was driving the Oshkosh expertly. ##Use water on the turret. We'll save our foam for rescuing situations only. We've got a big tank but not as large as what we're probably going to need before the other trucks get here to take over.##

##Yes, sir. Priming roof turret on auto, half aperature on straight spray.## Mike confirmed.
##I think that wind's picking up.##

Johnny Gage had noticed that chatter. "A snowstorm?"

"Yeah." said Hallie. "And it's shaping up to be a real bad one." she said. Then she looked up as an airport maintenance crew using a forklift suddenly appeared with a slew of spare fire department air bottles, stokes, and other sophisticated force entry tools into the garage ramp that they could see through the windows. "Ah, chief.. I think I love you." she grinned. "Come on, let's go." she said to the others, heading for that pallet of gear.

Rags and Lopez joined her after giving a thumbs up about the boiler room and fire alarm system to Beck. Roy, Johnny, Hallie, Ted, Chris and Chet linked up to head towards the above ground pedestrian tunnel which led to the blacked out main terminal. Gage lifted his radio, hailing Stanley. "Cap? We're set. The med center's a green. We're heading into the effected main building to start our search, left to right pattern, each room." he said, flicking on a high intensity torch light.

##Ten-Four, Team Two. Head to the east end wing to start. We're seeing a lot of victims through the windows. ## Hank replied. ## I'm taking Team One to the vicinity immediately outside to begin searching those parked planes that were hit.##

"What about the control tower?" Johnny asked. "We know there were at least two people up there."

Stanley was way ahead of him.
##The chief's got three trucks headed that way for a ground attack to secure the area around that base. Once they're done, I want two of you to go in and conduct a thorough search. The airport manager said that only those two men were up there since everything was shut down air traffic business wise for the tower for the duration of Runway 24's incident. I'm sending in four men with me to join up with the rest of you, working from the other end of the terminal. More search crews from Holbrook are on their way.##

"10-4, Cap. We'll keep you updated." Johnny replied, intensely focused and already sweating. Quickly, the eight firefighters organized into pairs, laden with all the equipment they could carry with them.

-------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Dr. Joanne Almstedt and Flight Paramedic Steven Beck in medical coats, listening.

Photo: Ted and Hallie in helmets, by an engine.

Photo: A triage tag in close up.

Photo: An airport medical center, setting up into triage mode.

Photo: An airport crashed against a damaged building with ARFF apparatus and firemen working around it.

Photo: Roy and Johnny on the radio, wearing scba, listening.

Animation: A burning fire just outside an access door to a building.

Photo: An ARFF firemen checking a power box in a boiler room.

Photo: Mike Stoker in turnout, driving an airport fire truck.

*
Subject: Breaker 1-9, Got Your Ears On?
From: patti k ()
Sent: Thu 10/01/09 10:34 PM

Rags and Marco reported in to the others.

"Everything's okay in the utility room." Harris said as Marco repeated the information on the main incident channel. "And we found these." he said, brandishing plastic coated location maps.

"Groovy!" said Chet, grabbing a few rolls. "I'll just bet one of these will show us the way into the control tower. It's bound to be a subterranean tunnel.."

"Yep. There is one. But it's right underneath all that fire. It may not be passable." Ted Rorchek shared, checking his air regulator's remaining supply.

"It's worth a shot to try that first." said Roy through his face plate. "Above ground's too hot to support life right now."

Lopez spoke clearly. "Med Center to IC. We're clear with full power. All systems: water, gas and electrical are showing nominal."
He caught Chris Rorchek's thumbs up about the results of his scouting run. "And the small aircraft fuel repository hanger is not a risk."

##10-4, Med Center. That's one big load off my mind. How's the doc's shaping up?## replied Joe.

"She's well supported. Relief staff's already been notified to report in from area hospitals." Lopez shared.

##Good to hear. Shift all future communications to Stanley. He's at a new site between the terminal and your triage and he'll be running your operations. Secondary ARFF teams have been called and will be deployed to your location to assist ASAP.##

"We copy new IC2." said Marco, spotting a familiar ring of support and attack trucks forming outside of the debris field around Cap's lime colored engine.
"10-4." he said, as he and the others hurried in their scba and airbottles, carrying their silver hazmat suits with them, draped over their arms.

Chris Rorchek added more information. "Chief, everyone's activated their P.A.S.S. and GPS beacons. You should have no trouble tracking our movements in here, or the lack of them, if we find ourselves in a rough spot."

##Noted.##

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the Airport Fire Station, Engineer Al Martelli was manning a short wave radio panel that patched in both the FD's handy talkies and all airport personnel's ham radios into one console. He had three speakers on live feed as he held the hot phone receiver to one of his ears. "Yeah, we're practically dead in the water even with four companies' men. I'm seeing four planes, and most of a main building fully involved on my camera, including our control tower. So gimme all you got and spread the word!" he said to a local police station. "Patchogue? Yeah. Bring em in. What part of an alert 3.. times four, don't ya understand?! I don't care how ya do it, just get everybody here!" and then he slammed down the crisis phone with a bang.

Al's backup ARFF firefighter was from Holbrook. And he was a short distance away, prowling, inside of his scba, making sure the integrity of the communications room was still solid. "We've no jarred window frames and all fuses are still on."

Martelli blinked cold sweat out of his eyes. "I kind of figured that. I don't hear no alarms going off from the furnace room." Finally, he yanked off his fire helmet and set it onto the paper strewn counter in front of him. "Sophie would be barking if that were happening."

"Is she a search dog?" The Holbrook fireman wanted to know.

"Sayyyy. That's a good idea..." said Al, suddenly getting up and opening an outer side door. "Go on, girl. Go to the chief.." he ordered. "Go work off that supper."

The lanky Dalmatian eagerly ran out onto the snowy runway outside the station, making a beeline straight and unwavering for the first fire truck cluster by runway 24A.

Martelli sighed as he resealed the door and made sure the smoke couldn't get in. "Well, that takes care of her."

"But not us, I'm afraid." the dark haired Italian firefighter said.

"What do ya mean?" Martelli asked, taking his center seat again to monitor the phones.

His helper shrugged minutely.
"Your chief was wrong. One's not enough for doing everything at this end.
Do you need a hammie to help out? I'm pretty good."

"Are you a --?" Martelli asked.

"Yeah I'm an Elmer. I even got a tower network set up at home." he said.

Martelli whistled appreciatively. "Wish we had that kind of budget."

But the other fireman wasn't listening.
"Hmmm, we have to fix this rig of your station's or we're going to stay elephant and people are going to start to die."

"Elephant?" mumbled Al.

"Yeah, looks like we can hear a lot farther than we can transmit." Then he tore off a damp fire glove and offered his hand to the resident curly haired fireman."Lt. Greg Hicks.. nice to meet you,..uh...."

"Al.. or Martelli. I don't care which." said the fire engineer.

Holbrook fire nodded once.
"Okay. Al's faster. Now who do you got on so far?" Hicks rushed. "I only heard part of what you were doing earlier."

Al took Greg's hand in return and smiled limply with incredulous amazement. "Just a tarmack bus driver."

"Good start. He's one who'll be able to get to a lot of places for us." said Hicks happily. Greg swung a chair around backwards and made a few adjustments to Al's board. Then he grabbed the ham mike and thumbed the talk button."Bus ham. This is FD. I got ya on full quieting. Talk to me." And then he cleared the panel with a tone to reset the repeating timer.

The bus driver outside immediately accepted the permission to talk.
## FD, I'm afraid I'm homebrew with a boat anchor. But I'll do what I can. I treat my rice box like a lover. FD, where should I take the injured? I found five so far. None are bad, just shaken a little.##

"Drop them off at the med center!" said Hicks. "Then go scouting again. But do not. I repeat do NOT cross over any charged fire hoses. They're lifelines to our fireboys inside all those flames."

There was a long pause over the airwaves.
##Fires are ugly bastards. Don't they ever go out on their own? Gotcha about the no thuds. Say listen, I'm gonna try a scatter to the control tower. Their whole roof up there is one great big antennae farm. I think the ionosphere is low enough tonight to bounce. I might be able to reach them even though they ain't got no power past that WOLF generator. I'll run California kilowatt if I have to.##

"No." said Hicks over the air. "You can't risk burning out."

The bus driver was contrite, and surprised. ##But FD,...I- I have to know if those fellas are okay or not. They're my friends.##

"They'll be found soon. We've a team heading there right now." Al promised.
"Save your signal for us! You're our only relay link with our non-firefighters, kapesh?"

The tough accented New Yorker grunted.
##Yeah, yeah. I guess I know that now. Okay, that's cool. Oh! FD. I'm making a hard turn. I'm gonna haveta put down my mic for a few to unload all of these hurt people once I circle around.##

Greg was mad about having a maverick lid on their hands. It showed in his voice.
"You do that! Priority! And get everybody's name and a headcount after each trip and report them back to me." said Hicks. "Respect that firefighter with you,
and absolutely respect ALL of our hang time. We're running a pileup over here." he spoke about the busy communications traffic Martelli was fielding.

##Roger wilco. I'll be making a trip. And by the way? I can beef up this breadboard. I got a digipeater from the candy store just last week.## said the scared bus driver. ##And yes, I'll avoid further ragchewing like this.## Then the ham channel was filled with nothing but a choppy amplifier sound as the driver got ready to set down his lollipop.

"Where's my Rettysnitch?" Hicks growled at their tarmack informant.

##Not there, old man.## laughed the bus driver. ##DSW for now.##

Greg hit the tone button just for spite.

"What th--?" Al asked, thoroughly confused by Greg's anger and by all the inside jargon that he couldn't understand.

"Nothing." Greg said, twisting knobs and dials on his part of the radio panel. "Just talking to myself. It helps me to think." Greg bit a sweaty lip and tasted fire foam. "Hear that?"

"You mean that staticky warble?" Martelli asked.

Hicks nodded, frowning. "He's picket fencing. I sure hope that patchwork transceiver of his can be boosted like he claims and last all night." said Greg.

"You have some doubts about that?" Al said, eyeing up the security camera screens again that were showing the disaster scene.

Greg eyed up his companion firefighter. "No. If anything,..our contact is tenacious.
I think we can count on him."

"We're gonna have to." Al said no nonsense.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Al and Ted wearing Hazmat suits, talking.

Photo: Chet and Gage flinching at a scene.

Photo: Al Martelli checking a fuse box.

Photo: A fire department console radio station.

Photo: Holbrook Fire Department's Jupiter engine.

Photo: Sophie the dalmatian by a fire truck.

Photo: A firefighter using a mobile ham radio in a car.

Photo: A ham radio station and homemade repeater tower.

Photo: An airport transportation bus driving by smoke and flames.

*
Subject: Channel Open... Eyes Closed.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Fri 10/30/09 1:22 AM

"All stations, this is net control, W6A1." said Martelli on the airport's general ground operations channel from the fire station. "Are there any AOC or AOFs on frequency? If so, lay on your traffic.."

A static pileup met his ears in a confused tangle of replies.

##KX6JE#
##N4DL8## ... ##This is WB6W Mobile.. SPAP.##

"Break, Echo Xray.." Greg Hicks called out for the airport dispatch department. "We need those hams at Simplex frequency 135.3. Hams at 135.3. Bear with me all, I'm stacked real deep. Okay, go ahead, KXGJE--N4DL8-- WB6W Mobile-- In that order. I'm wearing my cans." Hick said, putting on a set of sensitive headphones. "Echo Xray,..do you any injuries? Give locations. We have acquisition of signal."

##W6A1, Echo Xray. We're still assessing our status. Please stand by.##

A sudden whine of feedback interrupted.
##Break! Break! Break! W6A1-- HTCharlie 7 from A-side Fuel Deck. Emergency! I've a lady with a broken neck. ## screamed a panicked male airport employee.

"HTC7.. W6A1-- You're sure?" asked Martelli, surprised that there were injuries that far away from the burning terminal.

The frightened man practically squealed.
##Man, I'm so sure! She ain't sleeping for fun with her head layin' flat on her shoulder like this! A chunk of falling airplane nailed her good right through our main warehouse door!##

Greg Hicks nodded, thinking fast and calmly. "Okay, we'll take action. There's nobody over there yet to our knowledge."

##Don't we know it!## shouted the employee.

Al winced, sympathetic. "Sorry it's taking the world to find ya. How many with you are injured?"

##Man, just her!##

"I got it. I got it. Just stay calm, all right? Keep her very still. Have someone find a light source and aim it outside at all of us so we can zero in."

##Okay. Understand it. ## he replied back, this time at something far less than a shout. He got off the frequency.

Martelli sighed in stress. "This is gonna take forever, figuring out everybody's 911."

"That's the only die we have, Al. We'll sort em out one at a time." Greg said to ease Al's frustration. "Try sweeping the west end of the airport's channels, 1-7. Tap into everything. Surveillance, the fuelers, the three tarmack teams, especially security.. They're bound to know something fast about seeing people who're hurt. Don't worry about organizing anything. That's not our job. Just write down all possible location leads with their corresponding number of injuries. It's the ICs'
responsibility to delegate any right responses to what we tell them." Hicks reasoned, opening up his own panel to the rest of the airport ham frequencies 8-14.

"I know that. I know that.." Martelli sighed deeply. "All right. Okay. Geesh, what a mess out there." he said as people continued to crowd into the ham receiver.
Al finally got himself even keeled as he continued to gather information. "Any other reports of damage at 6 eye-eye-U?" he began. "Go ahead,
KXGJE. All other stations, please stand by."

He soon learned a horrifying story. Simultaneously, Greg heard a second one.

##KXGJE--W6A1- In the Hotel Restaurant.. A dozen trapped. ##

"On fire?" Al asked.

##Yes. ## replied the house manager. ##I don't know how many dead.
Too many to count.## she said hoarsely.

"Get out of there. Everybody alive who can be moved or carried. It's not safe."

##The emergency exits are all blocked from the outside. I--##

"Get out through your basement level severe weather shelter. Go north through the security checkpoint and into the subterranean parking garage. That's away from all the damage. Then get outside to the main boulevard. Help's stationed there. I'll have another fire crew party meet up with you by tracking back along your escape route." Martelli told her.

##But..##

"Go. Forget about any assets. The smoke is only going to get worse." Al told her, ferociously scribbling down the manager's situation onto a notepad.

Al's mic line clicked dead.

Greg bit his lip at his own ham station. "N4DL8, What's your damage?" he asked the Security Supervisor.

## We've heavy damage to the concrete foundation all along ticketing and Gates A1 through A4. Baggage Claim is gone and I see at least two buses burning by what's left of the car rental place.##

"All your personnel accounted for?"

##No way in h*ll.##

"How about civilians?"

##Son, you've got the IQ of a salad bar if you think I can even begin to answer that!## barked the coughing, older officer on the channel.

"I meant how many alive or salvagable? On anybody." Hicks clarified quickly.

## Nine. Everybody else that I can see around me, is dead. Including Theresa Ryder.##

That fact stunned the firefighters. The airport manager's office was located in the most interior location of the airport. At its heart. If the damage had penetrated that far with a force enough to kill, they needed to know what kind it had been and what dangers still remained as soon as possible.

##Repeater Time Out. Wait. Repeater Time Out. Cancel..
came a mechanical voice of a machine over the channel.

"Oh, geez. No! Now I KNOW the FCC got that we've declared a state of emergency.." Martelli boomed, incredulous, angry. "Who's fumbling the ball over there?" he said as their ham radios suddenly went weak as they were kicked off the network.

Greg was completely calm in the storm. He raised a handy talkie to his lips.
"Chief, can you take the timer off for us? We're still running barefoot. Probably because we're having trouble getting the APU started."

##IC-1 to W6A1. Which one?## asked Joe Rorchek through their channel.

"The power unit in the fire station's Room 3." Hicks replied, letting go of his talk button with a bleep as he read the correct sign. Then he pressed the mic again, in a sudden thought. "You know what? We can bypass that. Where's the drop for the antennae? What we have now's barely warming the clouds." Greg explained. "We're stacking up badly into non-reception."

##It's just inside the door on your left as you look into the station from the runway. Big yellow spray painted---##

"Found it. Thanks, Chief. Two definite casualties at Fuel A. One female injury and one male green tag. He's emotional probably, and shocked as well." Greg said, leaning over to plug in the jack from the spool of cable that he had been playing out behind him.

##We see their light. Heading over.## replied Joe. ##Keep dispatching us to new places like you're doing. You know more about what's happening globally than we do victim wise because you've got direct ham radio contact with the airport employees.##

"Right, Chief.." Greg said. "So far we've leads on two major incidences. One at the Restaurant and the other in the Baggage Claim/Car Rental wing. Both are on fire."

##How many victims?##

"A dozen at the first. Nine at the second. I pointed the whole food place underground and out the ramp to the avenue."

##That's the best plan. Holbrook 2 is receiving word. Baggage/Car Rental?##

"Two occupied buses burning. Missing security personnel. Heavy fatalities.
Unknown if related to smoke and fire or structural collapse. The concrete foundation in ticketing's been compromised."

##Oh, not good. A main fuel line runs under there to the tank farm.##

"...which is right behind the medical center." Hicks finished.

Al hit a button to queue up all his ham callers to his board in the order received.
"Chief, should we evacuate triage?" he spoke into his talkie.

##Not yet. It was given the all clear by our firefighters. Going to trust their instincts.## said Joe. ##All right. I'm on continuous reception to your HTs. Give me solid facts when you get them. And only solid facts.
Hang in tough, boys. We're doing all we can and more than ample help is already here. ##

Then next to him, Martelli minced his lips, looking fretful. Then he groped for his HT and toggled out. " IC-1, uh.. Is Sophie there, helping?"

##She's a rock star.##

"10-4." Martelli hastily parked his HT, embarrassed for even asking. "Of course she's fine. She's a fire dog." He sagged into his chair as he straightened out a few curls with a broad sweep of relieved fingers through his hair.

Greg just stared at him. "You had any doubt?"

"Yeah, she's never seen any hurt people before." Martelli told him.
"Only mockups."

"Trust her instincts. They're as good as ours." Greg reassured him. "Why do you think Dalmatians are always adopted by fire stations?"

Al took offense. "Because they're visible."

"Let's hope so tonight." Hicks said eyeing up the worsening snow storm swirling about their observation window. "There are plenty of people who need saving."

##Repeater timer off..## came the mechanical voice again and once more, their two boards sprang into a mix of encouraging and horrifying life.

This time, Martelli's faith didn't waver. "Finally." he said, slamming his fist down onto the table top with eager enthusiasm. "Now we can get some real work done." he told Greg. He flipped a few dials. "Looks like we've just been given the top most priority air time of the whole county."

Hicks got right back into the saddle. "N4DL8-- W6A1. Receive me? Further report on your situation if you can."

An agony of seconds followed.

"He will." said Al, with a glint of hope in his eye. "I know him. He's a stubborn old fart."

----------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Burning plane at night by a fire station.

Photo: The nose of a plane through an airport boarding gate that has heavy damage.

Photo: Airport firefighters in silver muster out.

Photo: Chief Joe Rorchek on the radio.

Photo: Roy, Johnny, Chet and Marco carry out a victim by stokes with Cap following on HT.

Photo: Johnny looking up with surprise in a helmet.

Photo: A wall of fire separating you and a calm runway.

Photo: Greg Hicks at a ham radio station at the firehouse.

Photo: Joe and the Chiefs at the MCI status board, receiving info.

Photo: Roy in scba, finding two victims in a room full of fireglow.

*
Subject: Broken Shells.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Fri 11/06/09 1:00 AM

Roy and Johnny split off from the others, aiming for their chosen goal.
"IC-2, HT 51- DeSoto and Gage. We're heading for the control tower."
Gage radioed out.

##10-4, 51-A.## replied Hank. ##Bring plenty of air with you. Call for assistance if there's excessively large fire before you enter.## Cap ordered.
##Closest team is two hundred fifty yards west of your location. They're with me. Note an exterior attack is in progress at the tower's base.##

Gage shrugged, hefting up a heavy rope coil bundle over his medical pack and air bottle. "Sounds like we're well cushioned already." Johnny sighed in relief as they rounded a corner into smoky darkness after double checking the seals on his scba mask.

"Pick a route.. Stairs or elevator?" Roy asked him, sweeping his flashlight before him.

"Elevator shaft. Less work to climb up that than any explosion crippled steel landings." Johnny decided.

Roy nodded.

A large expanse of perfectly groomed carpeting glowed under their flashlight beams as they penetrated the pitch black main terminal even deeper. Only the soaked flecks of active sprinkler doused embers lit their path.

DeSoto lifted his HT. "Cap, sprinklers are on east end main terminal."

##Good news.##

"Where the h*ll is everybody?" Gage wondered, his breaths coming in fast exertion as he hurried along. "The exit's right behind us."

DeSoto shook his masked, helmeted head. "Maybe they couldn't get out."

"Oh, don't say that." Johnny whispered.

-
Hank and his large mobile rescue team entered the restaurant with their stokes stretchers and fire hoses. Body after body lay in stillness before them in air that was incredibly hot. "Where's the fire?"
he asked his men.

One of them replied. "Got to be in the walls. Can't be below us. It's all solid concrete foundation here according to the maps."

Cap nodded in agreement.
"Okay you two, check and then turn off any utilities. You pair, sweep for live fire. The rest of us'll stop and check all these people for survivors." Hank yelled through his mask. "Whatever you do, watch your backs!"

He felt his people start to work. Reaching up, Cap turned on the sprinkler system in the area by knocking off a sprinkler head with his jacket axe from a table as a precaution and a fast cool down measure for their victims.

The only sound they heard was from the gently falling water cascading down around them from all the released shower heads.

Cap knelt by the nearest casualty. It was a little girl, seemingly untouched by harm. But she had no pulse when he felt for one with an ungloved hand.
Hank left behind a black triage tag and moved on to the next victim.

Person after person in the whole area was checked carefully for signs of life. All thirty six of them were very dead. Right where they laid sprawled, in awkward piles. No one was burned in the slightest. Hank was grim. "Let's move on into the kitchen. Out here must have been all toxic atmosphere."

He bent down and checked a jacket indicator filter. The yellow disk, was stained red. "It's carbon monoxide. Maybe we can find somebody hiding in one of the food coolers in a pocket of good air." he suggested through his air mask, breathing hard. He lifted his HT to his faceplate. "IC-2 to all crews in airport west. We're reading massive CO levels. Use extreme caution. Let's go."

But their search was fruitless. They left wax crayon victim statuses and times whereever they went on doors and on walls for the later teams coming in behind them after tagging the dead. No one anywhere, was found alive.

A few minutes later, they hit an exterior wall dimly lit by the fire of two burning planes outside through windows that were paralleling their new route along the orange concourse. Hank saw some movement in a man huddled by a window. He was wearing airport tarmack gray and his face was pressed desperately against a hole in the glass of a cracked window near the floor. "Over here!" Hank yelled. "Somebody bring a resuscitator!" He shouted on radio. He threw a flashing beacon onto the floor near him as a visible marker in the wet, raining darkness.

A fireman obeyed and clattered in with an apparatus. Carefully, Cap rolled the man over and began actively ventilating him on pure oxygen using the positive pressure valve to boost his feeble breathing. That fireman stayed behind to assist, while the others continued on with their search and rescue efforts.

"He's barely conscious.." Hank told the fireman. "But I think he was in good enough air down here for the most part." Cap read the man's name tag and access badge. "He's a fuel manager. Here, take over. I want to see if I can wake him long enough to get some solid info out of him before we turn him over to the bug out crews."

The firefighter complied, manually forcing in only enough oxygen to make the man's chest just begin to rise, to prevent any harm.

Hank rubbed a few knuckles into the man's chest that he had just bared. "Hey, Chad.
Can you hear me? Open your eyes.." he shouted.

The older manager startled awake, and then he jerked when he felt the end of a machine delivered cool breath as it was fed into his lungs. "Whaa?" He started coughing, and then he tried to push the resuscitator off his nose and mouth.

"Easy there. It's okay. This is just oxygen. Can you hold this mask to your face?"
Cap asked him, covering the man's panicked fingers that had grabbed the demand valve with his own. "Just suck this in, you'll be able to breathe better soon."

Panic, confusion and fright all marched across the manager's dirty face.
Finally, he spoke as his strength returned and his breathing sped up.
"You're firefighters."

"Yes." Cap smiled through his faceplate.

"What happened?" Chad mumbled around the mask.

"A Concorde crashed in the airfield. Part of it hit the terminal."

The man sat up quicky, coughing. "I remember!" he said,
keeping the oxygen mask the other firefighter had handed to him close to his face. "I was running to check the refinery line!"

"What can you tell me about those docked planes out there? Are they occupied?"
Cap asked him, holding the manager's shoulders steady.

"The middle one. The one that's not on fire yet. I sent my prep crew in there!" he panicked.
"We'll go get them out right now. Calm down." Cap said, gesturing for a nearby firefighter to call in that finding to the outer fire engine crews. "You may be hurt somewhere."

"No, I don't think I am."

"Okay. Do any of your planes have critical cargo on board?" Hank pressed.

"Uh,..." Chad sweated. "..no. They're all scheduled just routine maintenance.
Food, fuel, oxygen.. Just the usual deal." he said numbly, getting sleepy with shock and from the poisoned air. "Oh, why do I feel sick?"

"Rest easy. More help is on the way." Cap told him, lying him back onto the floor. He whistled sharply through his scba for an arriving stretcher crew to hurry on over to get the manager out. "Conscious. Smoke inhalation. No spinal precautions needed! Watch yourselves and him closely. This whole place is chock full of CO."

"Yes, sir! We heard the alert." they replied, swiftly accomplishing a mask exchange on the manager for their own portable oxygen supply.

Cap rose to his feet to return to the head of the search party with his resuscitator apparatus carrying arff assistant behind him. He raised his radio to his lips and gave a report update to Joe Rorchek and the paramedics still working themselves inside from the other end of the airport.

-
Chet Kelly was teamed up with Hallie Green. They moved down a fork that Roy and Johnny said would lead to the rental car and taxi stand commons area.

They both tensed behind their charged fire hose as they dragged it along in their wake.

Green sucked in a worried breath of air from her bottle and mask.
"Why aren't we seeing anybody? Your captain said he saw lots of people through the windows."

Chet turned and grinned at her as he put out a small fire on the carpeting just ahead of them. "I'm a raging optimist. I think the the majority managed to get themselves out in time. See that fire door? It's hanging wide open."

"Let's hope so." said the blond bunned firefighter, gripping her triage bag a little tighter.

She swept her flashlight around to the front of her, and stumbled on a sudden rise. It was the carpetted floor, rising up into the air at a forty five degree angle. "Oh, sh*t." she cursed. "Look at all this damage ahead." she sighed in disbelief. "We can't go in any further without a full urban firecrew to make sure things safe for us."

Kelly nodded in agreement and used his HT. "HT 51 to IC-2. We're just approaching the west wing car rental taxi stand. We're seeing three major successive uplifted heaves in the concrete foundation along the green concourse. Structural damage is extensive. Request an Urban to preceed us."

##HT 51-B, I concur. Back off and try another area that's less dangerous for now until they move in to your location#
Hank replied.

"10-4." said Kelly in reply.

Hallie backtracked them to the corridor where she thought they had all split up to do their site sweeps. "Whoa.. we're lost.." she said to him.

Chet looked up from his GPS. "No, we're not. A way out's just over there." he said, pointing around the dark silhouette of the security arch. Then he did a double take in shock, his eyes attracted to the pitch black area just to the side of it. "Oh, my G*d, Hallie, is that the nose of a plane?"

She stopped in her boots and shifted her red helmet a little higher up onto her head. "Yeah, isn't this about where the middle one is?" she said. "Let's go check it out." she said, still stunned at seeing part of an airliner crashed through a wall at the very center of an interior passenger boarding terminal. "I'm not seeing any clear danger yet. So far so good. And where there isn't any fire..."

"...we might be able to find some people." Chet finished. He pointed up to the ceiling. "Crack out a sprinkler head. Let's drown any further chance of a fire out here. Looks like the initial explosion's long since over."

"Cracking heads." she saluted, through her steamed up faceplate.

"No, let's just go find some." Chet joked to ease their stress.

Hallie raised their fire hose and tightened its stream into a fine point.
She easily destroyed a few trigger valves before turning it off again.

The reassuring sound of spraying water activating all around them worked to calm the worst of their fears as they continued to scout on ahead.

-
Johnny felt the metal elevator doors in the basement of the control tower carefully. "No fire here."

"No, but that brick wall's cracked." said Roy. "And that could mean gas leaks, electrical fires..."

"I hate knowing so much." Gage grumbled, checking the amount of air he still had left in his air bottle by reading the regulator dial.
"I'm at forty five. You?"

"About the same."

Together, they forced open the doors with a pair of magnetic grippers.
Soon, they were looking up the smoky shaft toward the control tower's observation deck. They slowly began the five story climb using an intact maintenance ladder. And they repeatedly kept shouting the air controllers' names, the whole way up to the top, lighting their route carefully with a pair of helmet lamps.

"There's no answer." Johnny coughed, through his air mask. "It is hot?" he asked of the final doors they had yet to open.

Roy pulled off a glove and felt the metal. "No."

"Okay.." Gage sighed.

Gasping, DeSoto and Gage utilized the magnetic gripper handles one more time, above the quiescent and unused elevator car. Fresh cold air poured in.
"The air's safe in there." said Gage, pulling off his mask.

The half and half level floor that met their first glance, was dripping blood into the elevator shaft. Johnny quickly found a pair of shoes tightly pressed against the wall to his right after they climbed out. "He's under a lot of debris.." Johnny said. Then he looked up around his helmet."Looks like part of the ceiling came down on top of--"

"Gene's dead.." came a nearly inaudible moan from very nearby. The second air traffic controller was seated haphazardly in a chair, facing the wide windows, holding a hand held light up high in the air. DeSoto saw that he was flashing colors of red and green over and over again into the snowing sky at as many different orientation points as he could reach.

Roy rushed over to him. "Are you hurt? My partner's going to see about your friend,.... Mike." he said, reading the young air traffic controller's name tag.

"I'm telling you. He's dead." Mike whispered into Roy's ear when the paramedic bent down to hear him speak.

DeSoto blinked, glancing around at the extent of damage evident in the room surrounding them. "He's still mostly buried back there. Did you dig around a little? Enough to check for a pulse?"

The dazed man just shook his head.

Roy knelt by the man's side, taking off his faceplate. "Then how do you know that for sure? My partner and I, we can--"
"I know that Mister Fireman, because the rest of my boss, is over here."
he said numbly, his eyes filling with tears, pointing down to a stained bit of floor near his feet.

Looking down, Roy saw only half a victim.

DeSoto quickly covered the remains with a pack tarp. Then he swiftly wheeled the still seated Porter away from the sight to the other side of the round aerial room, that still wasn't damaged. "Johnny, the other one's Code F."

Gage looked up from the debris pile he was still digging through near the shoes. "Why? What gives you that idea? I think I almost uncovered a femoral---" Then he broke off when he saw where Roy was pointing. "Oh."

A muffled explosion met their ears, making both firefighters duck.

"And it looks like the roof's on fire." DeSoto added, shaking a piece of burning paper from around his wrist.

Mike Porter mumbled more. "There a twenty five gallon propane tank up there." he said dully, still gripping the signalling light gun. He pointed it aimlessly at Roy.

"Where?" Gage demanded, squinting in the circles of green and red that flashed in his eyes from Roy's jacket.

"Right above the elevator shaft." Porter replied quietly.

"Then we're somewhat shielded, even if it blows up." Johnny figured out.
"There's got to be a hut up there for the cable pulleys between us and tops of these windows."

"Yeah.." Roy agreed, lifting his radio. "HT 51-A to IC-2. One alive in the tower. New fire on the roof with a propane risk. A 25'ver. Our free air's uncontaminated."

##An Addison's on the way up your flank. Hang tight.## Cap promised.
Leaning down, DeSoto took the light out of the air controller's hand as the man wilted in fresh grief. "Oh, Gene..Why did this have to happen on our watch?"

Johnny joined Roy at his side, where he knelt by Porter, to begin a care assessment. "How's that scrape on your head? Do you have a headache?"

Porter instantly snapped in anger. "What do you think? I just saw my best friend die right in front of me." he gasped. Then he looked horrified. "Oh, no.. where's the gun? I can't stop warning people away, I'm the only one up here who can-- There may be another crash, another crisis plane like that Concorde.. Oh, no. All those people." he sobbed.

"Here, I'll do it." DeSoto offered. "You just rest a while and let my partner check you over for other injuries, okay? It's this button here, right?"

Porter quickly got a grip on himself after a few full breaths of air.
"Yeah, just keep sweeping that in wide arches, all around the circle of our observation deck. They'll see us then." he said urgently. "Don't stop."

"What am I saying with it?" Roy asked, squinting at its brillance.

" 'Caution. Extreme Caution. Stay away.' It's naval signalling." Porter replied tightly anxious.

"Oh. Okay." said DeSoto, letting the man guide his arm around in demonstration. "I got it. Just stay seated."

Johnny pulled off his work gloves for medical ones. "Now about this headache. Did you black out?"

"No, I get migraines when I get under stress. Got any coffee?"

Johnny didn't even blink. "Fresh out. How about an I.V.? Got some good ones here."

"No. Absolutely not. I hate needles." Porter shuddered. He began to hold his still painful head. "Gah, I can't concentrate on this radar. By law, I can't leave until somebody relieves me."

"You're kidding." Roy gaped.

"Nope. Wish I was. Don't want to get sued."

"We're on fire!" Gage expressed pointedly.

"So? Does that ever stop you from trying to save people?"
Porter returned fire. "Cause a whole bunch more.. will die... if I don't keep warning other planes away from us, using this board."
he explained, enraged. Then he folded up in utter agony as his blood pressure did a number inside of his skull.

Gage leaned down to his level. "If you let me stick you, I can give you a pain killer.." he dangled.

"No drugs. I won't be able to think straight."

"You think you're thinking straight now?" Johnny countered. "I'd say you're pretty rattled, a twelve on a scale one to ten." Gage said tersely.
"Now in about five minutes, a whole group of firefighters are going to appear right in front of your nose in a bucket to haul your *ss out of here."

"No they're not. I know my rights. I'm conscious, I'm cognizant, and you can't touch me if I don't want you to, treatment wise." Porter glared back softly. "The law says I can refuse you."

"Well, I-- Okay, enjoy that pain. We're not leaving either." Gage said,
crossing his arms over his jacketted chest. "But you will soon, because that shock's gonna start getting the best of you. And when you finally black out, that same law says we can do anything with you afterwards that we need to do, in order to save your life."

"Fine."

"Fine!" Johnny spat back, getting genuinely angry.

Roy DeSoto just kept on flashing the light gun into the clouds as silence reigned.

Mike Porter busied himself with trying to rewire an emergency radio to a battery, so that it could function.

After burning his fingers for the third time on a soldering iron,
Porter finally had enough. "Ow,.. can you make this headache end without konking me out?"

"Of course, we're paramedics, aren't we?" Gage said, throwing up his hands.

"Okay, do it. And I- I-- I don't wanna watch when-- when.. when you finally stick me. I might faint."

"Good." Johnny glared evilly.

"But I don't faint. I can't faint." Porter reasoned.

"You won't faint.." countered Roy evenly as he looked back from his light signalling foray. "Johnny's real good. Half the time I don't even feel the needle when he has to start an I.V. on me when I'm hurt."

"Really?" Porter moused.

"Yeah." DeSoto said genuinely.

Mike eyed him skeptically. "Okay." he said guardedly. "Have it your way.
Do your stuff." he said, holding out a trembling arm.

"Finally." Gage said, smacking his hands together. "What'll it be? D5W?
That way you'll get at least the sugar part of your missing sugar and coffee cup."

"Oh, a funny from a firefighter." Mike patronized tiredly. "I've had enough of you guys' sense of humor to last me a lifetime. Just ask G--" he broke off, miserable once more.

A few minutes later, Porter was pain controlled with a little meperidine. Everybody was coping. The paramedics had their critically needed lifeline in, and a cranky patient still had what he thought was his independence.
::Just peachy.:: Gage thought sarcastically.

At least, they weren't arguing anymore when the ham radio burst into life on the debris smashed, half battery-rigged control console. ##Sherman Point to ISLIP, can we assist? We can cover your incoming rogue New York approaches and any evac chopper departures you need to launch. On 118.0. We are able as backup CT.##

Porter swallowed his pain nervously. "Rogues?! Oh, I knew somebody else was still out there past Concorde."

"Wait a minute, Porter. Who are those people?" Roy asked, lowering the flashing light gun he was aiming out all the windows.

"*cough* Keep signalling, no matter what you do. Don't stop!" Mike begged Roy, as he began shivering in every pore. "T-The snow curtain's still obscuring the ground. Those pilots can't see what's going on here. But they can see our light gun.. We're above the fog a-a-and all that smoke and f--" Mike suddenly blinked hard. He had lost track of what he had just been saying. His voice fell away, slurred. "Ohhhh.."

Gage narrowed his eyes appraisingly. "Mike, are you hurt worse than you've let on?"

Porter grabbed for a microphone nearby, and missed as another sudden wave of lurid grogginess overcame him.

Roy set down the signaller. "Mr. Porter? What's going on? Can you talk to us?" DeSoto was surprised the air controller didn't get upset at him again for interrupting the light gun's urgent flashing.

The new transmission group continued to hail from the ham radio channel.
## ISLIP, can you respond? We've been enabled.##

"Roy, ribs." Gage said as he grabbed Mike's I.V. arm to steady him. "There's a small cut or something I missed before on his side here. It's oozing fresh blood through his shirt."

Porter gasped when his awareness suddenly returned. He got angry, swiping Johnny's seeking gloves away. "I'm fine. W-We have to keep working. Don't touch me!"

Johnny spread his arms wide, in a gesture that was non-threatening. "Okay.. okay. All right. I'll leave ya alone. Well, how about this then?
Are those folks talking at us right now authorized to handle all your air traffic?"

Porter coughed weakly without answering as he voluntarily sagged even more against his console from his chair. He held up a couple of wait gesturing fingers that turned into a tight fist.

Roy got urgent. "Mike, where else are you in pain exactly? We found a small laceration on your chest. Is it there?"

##ISLIP, our channel is wide open. Acknowledge.##

Roy noticed bright pink froth beginning to run from Porter's tensed up mouth.

DeSoto startled. "Johnny, he's lung compromised."

Gage took charge quickly. "Oh, bad. Real bad. Mike, that wound of yours is probably sucking air. I'm gonna have to seal it off fast." Johnny warned. "And it's going to hurt when I do that."

"....no..." Porter said, trying to push Johnny away.

"Mike, this kind of thing can be bad enough to kill you."

"...n--"

Johnny got firm. "I've gotta treat you whether you like it or not, even before you black out." Gage insisted, trying not to hurt Porter by deflecting his weaker shoves.

"...you promised.."

"Mike, you're in shock.." Roy tried reason.

"I.... can't.... leave...my....post. Don't try to make me abandon it."
Mike gasped, panting desperately.

"Mike, do you really want to die doing your job?" Gage insisted.

Roy lowered his head. "Listen to him, Mike. We're not lying. Tell me something. Has a firefighter ever lied to you before? Ever?"

Porter grunted, gasping in pain. Then he shook his head slowly and stopped fighting Gage enough to let him probe around his torso a little closer. "No, but they're d*mned devious sometimes." Mike said,
trying to grin.

"Only doing jokes, man. Only then." Johnny chuckled seriously.
Gage pursed his lips tightly as he finished cutting away Mike's soot blackened shirt with a pocket knife as he looked for other telltale blood stains. There were none. "Roy, it's just there."

"Not much loss at all." DeSoto said, retaking Porter's pulse. "But he's getting real thready here."

Gage didn't lose focus on other matters. "Mike, now tell me everything. Who exactly is that caller we haven't answered yet?"

##ISLIP Tower, do you copy our signal?##

Porter paled seconds later as Johnny applied strong hand pressure against the tender place on his ribcage. "T-They're a tiny communications hub near the FAA beacon Clera. *gasp* They do have a small ....radar. Bless their everlovin'--"

"Then you've no more reason to risk yourself by staying here. We're moving you out now. Johnny, let's get him ready." ordered Roy.

"No way. I--"

Johnny yelled.
"Mike, don't be stupid! You're seriously injured. You're going to let these people know you're about to leave your post. Right now! Roy? They said CT earlier. I'll just bet that means duties as in control tower." Gage growled.

"No bet." DeSoto agreed.

Mike flared, pushing out red spittle. "They can't do that! I'm the one who--"
Confusion bloomed across Porter's face as he suddenly struggled just to breathe.

DeSoto began measuring a short airway alongside Mike's face from his lip angle to an ear as he held the man's head still.

Porter flinched feebly. "What's that?"

Roy replied. "Nothing important for the moment." he said stonily, palming it into a glove. "Feeling like you're going to black out?"

Gage supported DeSoto's hardball, even while he supported Mike's neck.
He was still covering the sucking chest wound with his other hand. "It's not pretty, is it?" Johnny asked his stubborn patient.

Porter tried to focus on his two rescuers. And failed. He gave in, closing his eyes.
"Okay.. Uhh. I lied. Yes, they can help out." he said, licking heavily blue lips. "I'll talk to them first. Then I'll do... whatever you want..." he gasped. "I feel bloody awful."

Mike Porter grimaced weakily as he nodded for DeSoto to toggle the talk switch on the mic that lay resting just out of reach of his questing fingers. He struggled to stay upright in the chair and was startled to find himself leaning on Gage's supporting arm more and more.

Roy committed the control. **Beep** Open radio met their ears. "Okay, you're on, Mike." DeSoto said.

Mike spoke, shocked that his voice was just a gasp. "Frank, you take the n-net. I'm hurt. Take the net before I--" His trembling hands began to flip over switches and levers. One by one, his control board panel lights changed from green to amber. "..am dragged out of here by a pair of smart*ss firefighters.." he rasped.

##Roger, accepting net control to Sherman.... Transferred in three, two, one ...Mark.##

Porter dropped as if poleaxed and the two paramedics caught him as he rag dolled out of the control chair. Without wasting time, DeSoto and Johnny laid him flat on the floor. DeSoto slipped in the oropharyngeal airway while Johnny drew out a needle decompression set from his med pack. "He's suffocating, Roy."

"Yeah... It's gotta be a tension pneumo." Roy agreed, drawing out a stethoscope from inside of his jacket to listen. "He's not gurgling in the slightest and he's hyperpercussive. We've got to reduce this right now. Or he's not gonna have enough lung space for the trip down, even manually ventilated." Roy said, lifting the drum away from Porter's sooty chest. "Still not feeling any rib fractures around that hole."

"I wonder what punctured him, Roy." Gage said, sealing off the tiny wound with an occlusive dressing.

"Doesn't matter. We'll spineboard him anyway. Let the doctor worry about that little mystery later." Roy said, working fast to package Porter's hanging I.V. to a place under the controller's shoulder. "Do you feel comfortable staying under all of that.." DeSoto asked, pointing towards the still groaning, sleet dripping ceiling."..just to play medical examiner?"

"Nope. Let's get out of here." Gage said, standing after rechecking the petroleum bandage he had placed over the ragged tear in Mike's chest. "You do the honors." he said, passing the paper sheathed long chest needle and valve over to Roy. "I'm gonna go call THIS number." he announced, moving quickly on his feet. "Two birds with one stone."

Johnny spoke into his HT loudly. "Heads up below the tower!
Falling glass!" Then he whirled, grabbing a console chair by its wheels and back. With one move, he threw the heavy piece of furniture into the still pristine window in front of them, shattering it into a million tinkling silver fragments that glinted as they sprayed out into a ring of shards under the orangish red firelight.

The night suddenly invaded the tower room with bone chilling wind and even thicker snow.

"Him first into the bucket.. Then I'm going in last, after you." Johnny said firmly.
Gage parked his butt onto the edge of the dropoff and whistled as he waved in contact with a nearby ladder aerial bucket apparatus that was slowly lengthening towards them from behind a huge blossom of cooling fire foam.

"Who says? We'll flip for it." DeSoto shrugged, keeping a few fingers on Porter's rapid carotid.

"Roy, that injury you've been hiding makes you my patient."

"It's minor." Roy grinned. "Just a burn. I'm not degloved." he said,
shifting his weight around as he swabbed a place down on Porter's sweat slicked chest with betadine.

"Tough. It's still circumfrential. I saw how that flame nailed you. We're going in that order." Johnny said, not smiling. "The grip in your hand's gotta be way off."

"PFffffffft." went the internal press of air from Mike's chest cavity out through the needle that Roy had quickly stabbed beneath taut gristle and skin. "Who says?" DeSoto grinned grimly. "I'm right on the mark."

Beneath Roy's stabilizing hands Mike began to gasp harder through his unconsciousness as his serious air hunger finally began to resolve away into a more normal breathing pattern.

"That's it. His lungs are expanded again." Roy said as he jerked the evacuation needle out. "Turning up his I.V. to wide open to counteract a pressure drop."

"I'll get the oxygen from the guys out there." Johnny said, reaching through the yawning hole he had created. A new screaming gust howled around them both powerfully, fueling the ceiling fire.

But then the flames above them went out as the roof around the propane tank was smothered in soupy retardant from the rescue bucket's stream. "You guys all right in there?" asked Rags Harris, manning the nozzle's full open aperature.
"We saw the emergency toss out."

"Yeah, we just needed to ventilate this guy a little before we bailed."
Roy told him. "Window smashing was the fastest solution."

"The two air controllers were still up here?" Then he started counting bodies.
"Where's Skidwell?" the burly firefighter asked.

Gage fixed his eyes onto the ground, where hustling teams of silver suited firefighters were milling about their scene. "He didn't make it." Johnny said, with a shake of his helmeted head.

Harris seemed to freeze as cold as the ice falling in wet piles around him.
"Ah,, Gene.." Rags said with a groan of anguish. "He was a good guy." his face crumpled in immediate grief. "He lived for ya, man. You know?"
he sobbed suddenly, shocked. "The best friend you ever had. What the h*ll happened?"

"We found him in back with a piece of the roof on top of him." DeSoto said. "It..... must have been quick." Roy added softly. "Got some O2?"

"Yes."
Harris tightened his jaw and shoved in the clanking tank of oxygen that was already fitted with a face mask and thumb trigger. He became hard as steel in voice and body as he began to force himself to cope. "Here. Ready for the long board yet?"

"Yeah.. we're set." Gage said, reaching for the offered equipment.
"Radio out to Triage. Red tag. A resolved tension pneumo. No fractures.
No gag reflex."

"You got it." Rags said, all business.

--------------------------------------------------

Photo: Gage searching a dark disaster zone.

Photo: An airport baggage claim area.

Photo: Fire trucks erecting light towers.

Photo: A plane crashed through an airport concourse.

Photo: Hallie Green, yelling in scba.

Photo: Chet Kelly HT communicating through an airmask.

Photo: Cap and firefighters searching in airbottles.

Photo: A sooty victim, seated in wet debris.

Photo: A helmeted Roy looking grim in darkness.

Photo: A pile of roofing debris.

Photo: A closeup of a burning control tower.

Photo: Mike Porter, a young air traffic controller, panicking.

Photo: An air traffic light gun signalling device by windows.

Photo: An I.V. D5W bag, closeup.

Photo: A injection being given to an I.V. port.

Photo: An oxygen masked injured man.

Photo: Johnny Gage and other firefighters, unloading a victim from a ladder truck basket.

Photo: A vast field of fire and black debris at night.

Subject: From The Depths.. From: Patti Keiper
Sent: Fri 11/13/09 2:05 AM

Chet Kelly and Hallie Green got about forty feet nearer to the commercial airliner that had been thrust nose cone first through the ticketting area, when the smell of raw Jet A penetrated even their self contained air fed faceplates.

"*Choke.* No way are we going in there. Not without being sure everything's shut off and shut down." Chet told his female firefighter partner. "There's a huge leak or fuel pool nearby!"

"But... It's still cool with no fire, the water's on, and it looks like the power's off in our whole entire area." she suggested. "People, if they're still here,
can't wait any longer for us, Chet."

Kelly scoffed, immediately about facing for the gaping rend in the airport terminal wall that led to the outside, close to heavy hose backup.
"Do you want to fry in a fumes blast? Cause I'm not in the mood to get a free winter tan and complimentary close New York shave, anytime soon."

Green made a face. "Let's just let the gas sniffer decide. Anything even close to red, and we'll bail."

"Deal. Whew...Can't you smell it? My nose is stinging." Chet said, making for the front door anyway, even as he kept a nimble close eye out for hot spots and fresh building smoke.

Green began to get nervous as she drew out the probe from the small unit in her pocket. "Can't smell a thing. I've got the start of a cold working on me."

"Maybe that's 100LL."

"The FS? Hardly. It's supposed to stench up a place when exposed to air."

The meter immediately began howling. Green made a tiny noise of shock.

Kelly immediately held up his gloves. "Be calm. Just relax."

"There are old fire sparks everywhere!" She emphasized, fidgetting as she hurried back the way they had come.

"We're moving in the right direction to safety." Kelly reassured her.

"Not fast enough!" Hallie shouted him and began her fastest sprint for the outside.

Chet's nonchalance lasted about five seconds before he, too, gave into blind fleeing panic.

As another fast measure, both firefighters turned off their handy talkies to prevent any inadvertant spark of static electricity that could ignite the invisible gas cloud they now knew was slowly spreading its dangerous essence through the dark and broken airport.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Greg Hicks continued to hail the security supervisor through the fire station ham radio.

"N4DL8, this is W6A1. Can you hear me?" the Hollbrook fireman continued.

Al Martelli shook his head in frustration. "This is bad. I'm telling you, something's seriously wrong."

"You figure." Hicks gestured, impatient, at the firestorm still licking the foot of the now totally evacuated control tower.

"I mean something ELSE is not right. Something we haven't gotten wind of yet."
The Italian firefighter said, biting a rough nail.

"What? We've enough guys--"

"And gals." Al corrected, thinking of Hallie Green and Dr. Joanne Almstedt.

Greg didn't miss a beat. "....and gals to pretty much cover any unexpected angle at this point. I swear every firefighter from here to New Jersey's put in an appearance. Just look at all those companies!" Hicks gestured again, squinting in the flashing red lights clustered along every safe runway at the airport.

Martelli wasn't comforted. "Gordon.. always.. answers his radio."

"Maybe he was smart and abandoned ship." Greg shrugged.

"An airport is not a ship." Martelli snapped.

"Gordon's not a captain, nor is he navy. He's.. well...he's a member of the Lyons club." Greg said, consulting his airport personnel dossiers that he had laid out all over their work table.

"Close enough." Al said.

"Then why isn't he answering?" Greg insisted. "Think he got into that trouble you're guessing at?"

The jury rigged radio crackled into life before them. Both firefighters skidded forward on their wheeled chairs in the communications room toward that microphone, but Al beat his partner to the grab. Martelli hefted up the mic and cord in triumph. "Unit calling in repeat. This is W6A1, Fire Station One." he hailed urgently.

## *Static*.. *Static..*##

Al slammed down the talk button. "Try Morse Code. You don't need much power with that."

A long dragged out silence reigned. Then a long string of dots and dashes began to filter in a hurry through the fire department noise from the other crowded speakers.

## .-. ..- .--. - ..- .-. . -.. / -- .- .. -. / ..-. ..- . .-.. / .-.. .. -. . .-.-.- / --. . -.-- ... . .-. .. -. --. /

--- ..-. ..-. / ... .- ..-. . --. ..- .- .-. -.. ... / .... .- ...- . / ..-. .- .. .-.. . -.. .-.-.- ##

( .3 )

Al's forehead was still creased in total confusion when Hicks stood up so fast to reach his Main IC Channel HT, that his chair fell over backwards. "Break! Break! IC-1 and IC-2! Message from Security/Ticketting! RUPTURED MAIN FUEL LINE. GEYSERING GAS THROUGH THE FLOOR! AUTOMATIC SHUT OFF SAFEGUARDS HAVE FAILED."

The fire department scanning board came to instant life. ## Roger that emergency traffic.
All personnel converge on the main terminal if not actively in a frontal attack or vertical attack.
W6A1, abandon your post and meet at IC-2's staging area ASAP. I want every available hand finding the source of that leak and the means of how to shut it off.## Chief Joe Rorchek ordered. ##Maintain standard large fuel safe distances while conducting your search.##

Captain Stanley, soon reciprocated with like orders. ##HTs 51-A, 51-B and all other paramedic search and rescue teams, meet up with me as soon as possible for reassignment and for an emergency personnel head count. Grab any victims along the way only as long as it doesn't slow you down.##

Both commanders addressed the airport's layout map for more information on the new risk they all faced. Nearby, support personnel began building medical gear around open ambulances with deployed stretchers in the green zone.

Martelli and Hicks ran for their assigned fire truck and outer turnout gear. They abandoned the station so fast, the snow was still blowing into the closing apparatus bay doors when they reached their emergency rendevous destination.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto looked at each other.
"How long do you want to stay before we leave?" the Native American paramedic firefighter asked his work partner.

Roy DeSoto hefted up his tools pack and the resuscitator meaningfully.
"Technically, we're safe already. We're over five hundred yards away from ticketting and the security concourse. But, we still need to make Cap's attendance row."

"We'll go. We'll go.. I just have a feeling about this last stairwell. I'm sick of finding just DOAs lying ar---" he broke off when his shoulder met with an obstruction to the door he had just skin tested as being fire free. "Well that's odd. There's no structural damage in this part of the terminal."

"No it's not. This is heavy as in it's being blocked." Roy confirmed, restuffing the search marking tape back into a shirt pocket.

Gage began shouting loudly at the door through his faceplate. "Hey!
If you can hear me, back away from the door! We're gonna get you out!
But you gotta move back!"

With a concerted effort, Gage and DeSoto pushed all of their weight against the metal door and got it cracked ajar just enough to see a row of black fingers and a few knees jut themselves out. It was a panicked crush of people, piled high against the exit. Smoke shot out in a lurid mane of gray from around the door.

"There's a lot of fire in there!" Johnny said. He radioed for Marco and Rags and Chet and Green to assist them in pushing back the people using the door. Finally, with five firefighter backs straining into it, the door finally opened.

A literal river of sweaty, coughing bodies in the worst kind of blind terror flooded out. Fifteen or twenty adults shoved past their rescuers who just let them by,
with one or two helpful shoves into the right escape direction. "Watch your head! You're trampling her! Be careful! Slow down!" Johnny tried to shout.

Roy just stayed silent, helping people untangle legs and arms from falls over debris and other victims trying to escape the heat that oozed out behind them.

"You're okay now. Anyone still in there?" Green said, guiding a few as they ran by.

Nobody answered.

"They're blitzed." Hallie said. "But they're all on their feet." she told the others as they pressed against the wall tightly to make more room for their victims to pass through.

As soon as the crowds tearing out of the stairwell ended, Roy DeSoto immediately entered the landing. He peered at where the back wall used to be. It was totally engulfed in flames. Hot and deadly. Without being summoned, the crew assigned knockdown wormed in past Roy as he knelt by two silent forms lying on the concrete. He reported the situation to Cap. "Stairwell Five's a hot spot. Multiple ambulatory on the way out! Checking for stragglers." Then he spoke to the others. "There's two still in here! Both alive!" DeSoto shouted as he crawled over to a sooty woman and man laying sprawled before him.

"Add two more by me." said Gage. "Looks like they're food workers." he said, feeling for signs of breathing after his pulse checks.

"Maybe this was that part the restaurant crowd who got separated from the others."
Chet said, hauling one man up into a carry onto his airbottled back.

"Could be. There's no tunnel down there." said Roy, picking up the nearest person to him after offering her his air breathing mouth piece apparatus.

Soon, all the firefighters were laden with the four unconscious people.
Hallie Green took up the front as a safety, following their lifeline rope back to the entrance. Behind them, a hose team pair provided cooling measures.

On the way out to the hazmat showers and the initial triage area, Roy and Johnny saw a person floundering in a pool of sprinkler water in a depression in the floor.
The illumination towers a support fire department had recently deployed provided enough light to see by for her fast rescue. The hose crew relieved Gage and DeSoto of their victims and made a beeline outside.

Johnny peeled down to his shirt and pants to make the save. It took only moments in the clearer air near the shattered windows of the terminal. "She's bleeding badly from the head." he reported as he handed her off to the others. "No time to secure her." he said, about her C-spine as she went limp with relief in his arms at the edge of the hole.

"She was swimming. Pretty good neural ability check if you ask me." Kelly said.

"I'm fine.." said the soaking wet woman. "I tripped and fell getting away." she coughed weakily. "Just too tired to move."

DeSoto grabbed both of her wrists and hauled her bodily up. "Easy. Just relax.
We've got you." he said, setting his helmet onto her head.

"Let's go. This way!" said Hallie, wrapping up the woman into Johnny's coat.
Together she and the rest of the firefighters got out of the building with the last victim from the burning stairwell dangling between their arms.

Outside, silver suited Hazmat immediately descended upon the injured woman in a swarm.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Ham Radio scanner and microphone.

Photo: An airplane and landing field in burning ruins.

Photo: Two battalion chiefs going over a map at night.

Photo: Four firefighters trying to force their way into a stairwell.

Photo: People piled against a door in a smokey stairwell landing.

Photo: A stairwell floor totally engulfed by an inferno.

Photo: Roy Desoto in scba, crouched over two victims, by firelight.

Photo: Johnny Gage rescuing a woman from a water hole under wooden debris inside a smokey building.

Photo: A wounded woman, bleeding from the head.

Photo: Silver suited hazmat and air bottled crew working triage.

Audio file: An mp3 morse code recording saying, "RUPTURED MAIN FUEL LINE. GEYSERING GAS THROUGH THE FLOOR! AUTOMATIC SHUT OFF SAFEGUARDS HAVE FAILED."

Subject: The Tuna Can.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Sat 11/14/09 3:08 AM

Johnny Gage was through with his hazmat shower and glad to be in a fresh uniform.
"Tetra-ethyl lead, gotta love it." he said to Roy as they hurried over to Cap's huddle by the command table in IC-2's staging area. "They told me that stuff's really toxic after a while."

"Shouldn't have any effect on you. You're already neurally challenged as it is."
DeSoto quipped.

Next to him, Chet grinned, gladly accepting ease from some of their work stress.

"Oh, ha ha." Johnny sighed, eyeing up the lines of firefighters waiting for Cap to begin giving new directions through his megaphone. "At least we know what we're dealing with now." he said, pointing to the inner lining where blue dye had stained his turnout jacket. It had been cleaned and hosed down thoroughly,
but the colorization had remained.

"Avgas?" asked both Chet and Roy.

Johnny nodded miserably.
"Subterranean. I got it on me when I got wet going after that woman from the stairwell. And she got it on my coat after being wrapped up in it." he smiled, glad that she was safe and well.

"What part do you love about this situation, Johnny? The fact that somebody spotted the ultimate Old Faithful in fossil slimes spurting up through the foundation? Or the fact that we're the lucky ones that have to go traipsing back in there to cap it off before it blows us all up sky high?" Kelly asked, misinterpretting his expression.

Mike Stoker looked up from a fast sandwich he was eating that came from the canteen. "Shouldn't be too bad. Fuel manager says there are cut off valves every few hundred feet along the pipeline. A foam turret, robo controlled, ought to make it there safely enough to blanket it to prevent it from igniting so that the rest of us can move in to fix the leak."

"Glad you're so confident. That won't help the stuff that's still geysering up into the air, now would it? That can still burn real fast." Gage said sarcastically, still frowning at the turquoise liner that he had inherited from New York's surprise nightlife. He spun around in place trying to see whether or not the outside canvas surface of his jacket was effected as well.

Roy told him the truth. "You're fine. Doesn't show. Nobody'll notice anyway."

Next to them, Hallie Green bounced on her toes. "Oh, here we go. He's starting."
she murmured excitedly, eyeing up Cap as he looked up from his dry marker status board under the fire truck tower lights. She began popping her gum loudly.

"Spunky, isn't she?" Kelly whispered back to Johnny.

"Not my type." Gage growled just as quietly back to him.

"I'm afraid you've got that backwards, gentlemen." Green said, piping up in amusement. "Neither of you,.. are mine. I like only non-gossipers for dates." she said, folding her hands behind her back to stretch out a few muscles.
"And in that dislike, you both fail." she said flatly.

"Sorry.." said Chet and Gage in stereo, genuinely. "We didn't mean anything by--" Gage broke off, clearing his throat. Both firefighters couldn't hide their discomforture and embarrassment at being overheard. "We were just--"

"...being men." she scowled. Then Hallie let them off the hook and just winked.

Roy rolled his eyes. "Kids.." he chuckled.

"Who says?" All three of them shot back at DeSoto.

A squelch from the megaphone silenced all chatter in the rows of companies.
Hank triggered the loud speaker. ## Attendance is complete. All firefighters have been accounted for. Listen up! We're gonna tackle this situation as follows...## and Cap began to layout the gameplan for each of the crew teams under his wing.

All the paramedics' ears perked up when they heard their group was being given the middle airplane, the only one not yet in a war between staying on fire and being put out by foam crews.

##...you are to proceed to that location and determine egress enough to either verify it free of victims or to extricate the casualties that may be on board.
Truck Nine will assist. ##

They vaguely heard that fully suited scouts were being sent back inside only in small protected groups, in an attempt locate the gas leak source's exact whereabouts. But the rest washed into irrelevance because they were moving and getting into each of their trucks to start back into their rescue work.

Gage had a thought as they all drove to the safe zone a foam crew had made around the middle airplane. "Why don't they just scan the thing with heat sensors and see whether or not anybody's inside?" he said into the paramedic HT channel at the others overhearing it live.

Hallie spoke up on their private band. ##It's because the radiant heat from all that nearby fire's hotter than any people are right now. Even after any fire's been put out. Takes a while for scorched concrete to cool down that far.##

"Huh. Never thought of that." Johnny admitted.

##Well, your captain sure did.## said Green. ##That's why we're being sent in there. To find out that fact for ourselves.##

Hank broke into their channel once the chatter had ended.
## Paramedic team, make sure the plane is still grounded before boarding. A mechanic said her cable should still be attached to the grounding rod embedded into the runway just beneath the wings of the aircraft under her fuselage. It's anti-static and very crucial that it remains connected.##

"What happens if it gets severed?" Chet wanted to know.

But Cap had moved off their channel and back onto the main IC.

The three lime fire trucks soon arrived to the site and everyone got off in a hurry, eager to get started with the job. They all grabbed extrication gear along with a fresh set of air bottles to wear.

When the foam crews signalled that things were finally safe to enter, they moved in closer. The first thing they did was locate the thin grounding umbilical tying the aircraft to earth. "It's there!" Chet said, pointing a flashlight.

"Hey!" said Stoker in discovery. "The passenger tunnel's still up." he shouted, pointing through the thick falling snow. "Could be another fast way in that won't involve any cutting."

"Cut anyway." Hallie suggested. "We still need a direct way to get people down to the ground."

"Rags and I'll get started." said Stoker.

Marco and Chet offered assistance. "We'll help."

"Roy and I'll try getting in from the building side of the gate!" Gage shouted to the others as he and DeSoto climbed up a foam truck ladder to reach the damaged plane. Johnny ran up its skin nimbly from the tail to the nose followed closely by his partner. They stepped quickly across the roof of the tunnel gate before jumping down into its smokey maw through the explosion shattered window. They immediately turned their flashlights on. "Why didn't anybody try to get out? I'm not seeing any footprints." he said, pointing to the lightly snow dusted carpetting of the canvas roof shredded boarding tunnel.

Roy shook his head. "Fumes maybe? Or shock from the explosions?"
he guessed, making sure his air mask was on tight under his helmet.

"It's possible. Anything that damaged concrete like this had enough force to do a lot of bad. Including concussive collateral through the skin of an airplane. Eardrum effects alone from a pressure change might have stunned them all." Gage decided.

Roy hurried into the darkness, shouting for a response.
"Hey, fire department! Can anybody hear me?!"

Only the sound of dripping water met their ears.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Roy and Johnny approaching with ropes and airbottles.

Photo: Gage talking with Cap urgently at a scene.

Photo: A lime green airport fire truck rushing by an infield observation hut.

Photo: The nose of an airliner crashed through the outer wall of a terminal.

Photo: Gage running up the spine of a jumbo jet.

Photo: Roy and Johnny peering in the dark with torches.

Photo: A long twisted boarding tunnel at an airport.

*
Subject: Coincidence.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Tue 11/24/09 1:23 PM

Roy and Johnny walked carefully through the tunnel and stepped into the still docked airplane through its open hatch. "Where is everybody?" DeSoto asked as they passed through a blue curtain and into stillness.

Gage shook his head in deja vu. "This disaster scene is a huge one.
We haven't seen all of it yet to know its effects. We should stop asking that question. I'm starting to get freaked that we can't sniff out people any faster."

The darkness beyond the fire foam covered windows smelled of burned insulation. And sweat.

"Somebody's here." Gage said, when he detected the odor of people.
The two paramedics wove their way down the filthy aisle even faster, shining their flashlights. "Hey! Give us some light!" he shouted at the rescue crews outside using his radio. A sharp water blasting hose cleaned off half a row of windows and a bright swathe from a new rescue lamp tower illuminated the plane.

Passengers were still in their seats, dazed and throughly zombied. They looked like waxworks with shiny but whole skin.

"They're not burned." Johnny sighed in relief as he hurried forward.
Gage hurried to the tail area of the plane to start rapid triage checks from the opposite end.

Roy knelt by the nearest and saw only a two hundred yard stare on the man. His face was peppered with a bright petechiae and blood was flowing out of his ears. A slumped woman, still holding her briefcase,
showed the same signs.

Roy brought his HT to his mouth urgently. "HT 51-A to IC2. Thirty four victims! Most with internal concussive blast injuries."

His eyes swept the plane and noticed ruptured insulation and cracked glass everywhere, but no damage to the skin of the fuselage. "Must have been a very large pressure change in here, Johnny."

Gage radioed out more. "Mast trousers! As many as you can get!" he said as he found pulse after pulse that was only evident weakly in carotid arteries.

##10-4, HT 51-A. I've two crews working their way in.## replied Captain Stanley.

Roy found a row of older women seated upright. They started screaming when they slowly realized that they could see light again that revealed the blood splattered on their clothes from tiny glass cuts. "Easy! Don't panic. Your eardrums have been damaged and that's why it's quiet. Stay still for a minute and let me get you free." he said, working to cut their seatbelts off. He grunted, reaching over the trio with a seat belt cutter he had pulled from his pocket. Ripping, the straps parted with loud snaps.

The women clung to one another and fell silent once they found could move freely. Roy could see their physical pain was only just beginning to be felt in their faces. "We're gonna get all of you out. Real fast. Just try to relax."

The seniors hollered again when the skin of the airplane was peeled away by entering arff from a ladder on the roof. Marco and Stoker climbed in wearing full gear along with cloth stretcher nets.

DeSoto issued an order. "The still ones first. They're all alive. As soon as you get them out and into the green area, put them into mast suits and man their oxygen. Johnny and I will be right out as soon as we make a complete sweep for others. We haven't seen any of the flight crew back here."

Gage suggested more. "There's no bone fractures or spinal injuries. Everything's gonna be internal pulmonary, head and abdominal trauma so load and go. Those suits and I.V.s are the only things that're gonna help them enough until they all see a surgery table somewhere. Positive pressure ventilate any who quit breathing only lightly." he said, thinking of barotrauma.

Roy and Johnny worked fast, climbing over the seats and looking under them for small children. They found a single boy who was more bloodied than the rest.
"Marco, the kids are going to be the worst. Take this one and stay with him." said DeSoto, carefully lifting the blue shirted child into his arms. "Find out where he's bleeding out the fastest and treat him."

"Like he's my own." Lopez said, taking him. "Easy, chico. We're going to help you right now." he said, wiping blood away from the boy's nose and mouth with a glove.

The boy was no sooner out of the plane when a new smell filled the crowded cabin.

"I found a fuel leak by the wall!" a safety shouted. "Everybody double time!"

"Oh geez, didn't need to hear that comment." Johnny grunted.

Only one passenger understood the danger. He hugged his dazed wife closely. "Madeline, you know I'll always love you, no matter what."

She whimpered, her head sagging against his chest as an arff quickly struggled to cut free, their tangled seatbelts.

Roy and Johnny found the flight crew who managed to convey that there was no pilot or copilot on board yet. Gage helped one of them to the gash in the side of the plane the firefighters had made.

Cap's voice came live from the roof of the plane. "Make it fast! This plane's no longer safe enough!"

There was a mad scramble as passengers suddenly found their legs mindlessly,
obeying only a surge of animal adrenalin. Eagerly, fire crews pulled them out.

Roy and Johnny quickly freed one pinned man from a food cart that had jammed him against his seat, with a portajack.

Mike Stoker caught one passenger as he was overcome by shock, grabbing him before he could fall to the floor and be trampled. "Mister? I'll get you out!" he promised, gesturing for a net stretcher with a free arm.

Then he knelt by the skin of the plane and worked with crews to yank out a new fast escape hole with a chain and a pair of jaws tools.

In minutes, anyone not on their feet in the front of the plane, had been evacuated.

"Now let's clear out the tail!" Hank ordered, working fast with a crowbar.

But one by one, the firefighter's air bottles began to sound off low alarms.

DeSoto, Gage and all the others were forced to retreat from the plane to a support truck to grab fresh sets. As they hurried into new scba, strapping in, they watched the arff leading people down stairs that had been wheeled close to the escape hole in the airplane. Roy mourned the loss of the emergency slides, whose hatches had been warped beyond any possible chance opening by the initial Concorde explosion. "This could be working a lot faster if those had been cut open first."

"That would have taken too long. Golden Hour, remember?" Gage said seriously,
gulping down water from a bottle quickly.

Cap called a break a short distance away from the plane to gain some vital information about the cracked fuel line's location in the airliner.

"It's around row sixteen, about an inch underneath the floor." reported the safety to Cap. Roy and Johnny nodded. "There's a pretty big hole there. Looks like one of the passengers tried to find a way down to the luggage storage hatch with an axe." Johnny confirmed.

Hank sighed, "I've always said there's no reason for sharp things to be accessible by the public in an airplane."

There was a sudden commotion by the landing gear of the plane. A crush of passengers tripped over a duffle bag being kicked around at their feet and the bag suddenly tumbled off the stair top.

Nearby, Sophie looked up, and barked.

Roy DeSoto glanced into that direction urgently as he donned a safety belt.

"No!" Stoker shouted, pointing. He dove for a hose team to knock the falling bag away from the antistatic tether, with water, but failed.

The wire snapped in two and parted as the bag landed on it and arches of pure static electricity began to sweep the plane from nose to tail. The firefighters at the top leaped off of it, grabbing the aerial bucket in desperation as their ladder truck backed them hastily away from the suddenly ground charged plane. The stair crew's driver just as quickly retreated from the area, taking his arff and victims crowd with him on the wheeled stairs.

Every firefighter had fled about sixty feet away when the airplane exploded into a huge ball of fire. Inside the plane, all the remaining passengers were incinerated in seconds.
The fuel pump station nearest the mooring, also self destructed violently.

Roy and Johnny escaped underneath a protective fan of hose water. But the coolness did nothing to end the pain of the fire so suddenly seared into their hearts.

Inside the medical clinic, Dr. Joanne Almstedt flinched and froze, shutting her eyes against the hellish sight that could be seen clearly even through the silver coated windows. She was the only one there who knew exactly what had happened.

With a struggle, she returned back to saving the lives of those brought to her.

Outside, Cap began shouting attack commands to try and quell the new larger fire.
Teams of firefighters struggled to obey.

Nearby, the passengers who had escaped first, turned away and started crying.
A husband and wife embraced in horror.

One by one, more rescuers from the airfield came in to intercept them all.

Johnny spun around in a circle and spotted a little girl, folded up onto the ground right where she sat in the snow. She was staring at the burning plane.

Rushing up, Sophie the fire dalmatian quickly started licking the child's shocked face, trying to warm her with kisses.

Gage immediately scooped the girl up into a blanket and carried her to safety.

Sophie moved on to locate more stragglers who might have been lost in the panic.

Joe Rorchek's voice came over the wide band. ##A hanger's been made available near the fire station for any and all black tags. It's been turned into a makeshift morgue. Bring those casualties there after you've cleared out all the living.## he said softly to the plane crews. His voice sounded very tired and sad.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: An empty dark plane interior with spent oxygen masks.

Photo: Roy and Johnny in scba masks on their HT.

Photo: A smoky, dazed passenger filled plane.

Photo: Panicking old ladies.

Photo: A passenger feeling for signs on life on another.

Photo: Firefighters entering the roof of an airplane.

Photo: Firefighters evacuating a victim from a hole cut in a plane.

Photo: Crews carrying out a victim on a net stretcher down a mobile stair.

Photo: Roy freeing a pinned passenger with a portajack.

Photo: A concussed sooty passenger in his seat.

Photo: A masked Gage helping out a walking coughing woman.

Photo: A dirty, hurt couple, embracing desperately.

Animation: A fire sweeping through a crowded passenger cabin.

Photo: Joanne Almstedt flinching in horror.

Photo: Firefighters working to put out a big fire.

Photo: Sophie, the dalmatian looking up at you.

Photo: A little girl, injured, sitting dazed on the grass.

*
Subject: One by One.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Thu 11/26/09 10:06 AM

It was finally dawn.

The sun hadn't been kind as it slowly revealed the chaos that had ruled the night before. The only fires that remained burning were the ones deep inside the main airport terminal complex. Plans were being formulated on how to best tackle the inferno surrounding the ruptured fuel line that was still glowing there with pure fire.

Some firefighters were being rotated out for a rest and refresh break.
Among those were MacArthur's own airport firefighters. All, except one. Chief Joe Rorchek's youngest son.

Ted Rorchek sighed as he finished his assigned task. ::I've been ordered to pick up a visitor from a neighboring airport while my own burns to the ground. Does this make any sense?:: he asked himself mentally. :: I suppose it does considering who it is for whom I'm playing chauffeur.:: He spotted his quarry, and shouted. "Dr. Brackett!" he hailed.

A tall, denim jacketted man wearing sunglasses turned in the parking lot to face the red battalion chief's car that was speeding fast towards him. He saw the young, fresh faced driver who was a firefighter and waved back.
"Station One?" he said, pulling on a winter parka.

"Yep. Hop in." said Ted. "I'm taking you to the right flight pad. Morgan Wainwright's waiting to take you right into our controlled airspace. She's got the proper authorization. Only emergency vehicles are being allowed in."

"Choppers included?" Brackett said as he hurried to the passenger side of the car and slid in. He threw a small suitcase into the back seat.

"Yes, because the weather's improved a lot." Ted said, of the bright sunlight that was just clearing the horizon. "We can use them now finally for patient evacuations. I'm Specialist Ted Rorchek. I've been working the scene since it happened."

"How bad is it?" Kel asked Ted as he shook his hand in greeting.

"We've been losing more than we're saving, doctor. The fires have been a real vision of h*ll." Ted said tiredly. "Most have died because of fuel related explosions and fumes and the fact that planes have crashed down onto the airfield."

"How many planes?" Brackett asked, surprised.

"Two. One with survivors. One with none at all. And.....we don't know yet how many people have died or still need to be found inside the terminal."

"I'm sorry. I heard about the extent of the situation you guys are dealing with and so I pulled some strings to make it out here, fast.
There's a lot I can offer you folks by being an emergency physician, surgeon and cardiologist." Kel said, buckling his seatbelt.

"We're glad to have you, doctor. I heard from one of your fire station captains that you were very used to triage." Ted said.

"Unfortunately true. California suffers large scale disasters on a very frequent basis." Brackett admitted.

"Mudslides and wildfires?"

"Yeah."

"I've been paying attention." Rorchek said as he accelerated to head towards a restricted area of the airport with his lights flashing. "Sir, our own doctor, Joanne Almstedt, is up to her eyeballs in victims at the medical evacuation center. Is it okay if we take you there before getting you some chow?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way." Kel told him. "I work first, Firefighter Rorchek."

"Please, call me Ted or you're going to get us Rorcheks all mixed up in your head." Ted grinned.

"Your whole family's into the fire biz?" Kel asked.

"Yep. All at the same station. My dad, Chief Joe Rorchek, he's one of the incident commanders on right now. And my brother Chris, a specialist like me with paramedic training."

"I'll call on both of your medic skills often if you don't mind."

"Add Hallie Green, she's a paramedic too. I think she's even working with your Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage on a team next for another recon into the fire zone." Ted looked up, "Ah, here we are." he said as he drove the car next to a hot running red and white fire department chopper.

Morgan Wainwright, the sheriff's paramedic pilot from the national park was waiting there, leaning against her bird's windshield. "All set, doc?" she shouted as Kel Brackett got out of the car and ran to her, head low to avoid blade danger. Morgan's curly red auburn hair was waving wildly in the wind.

"More than ready!" Brackett replied as he waved thanks to Ted for driving him to his emergency flight.

"Put this on." she said, handing Brackett a white flyer's jump suit. "It's your uniform of sorts. Goes over your regular clothes. It has all the authorization patches and clearance cards you're gonna need."

Ted took off in the red car, adding a siren to his red lights as he hurried back to the disaster scene at ISLIP a few miles away.

Soon, Morgan and Brackett were in the air and hovering over MacArthur Airport just short minutes later.

"Oh my." Kel whispered as he looked down through the observation glass at his feet at the scene. He beheld what was almost a moonscape of carbon black craters and smouldering ruin. Rows of corpses lay stretched and covered on canvas stretchers on the ground near a runway, awaiting a move into a hanger morgue. Of the airport terminal, only a shell remained in its very center that was surrounding a tall geyser of fire riding up on a plume of pressurized fuel that was spurting into the sky. To one side, three sooty skeletons of powdered airplane remains stained the concrete tarmack as they oozed up through a thick layer of fire foam. He spoke up into his helmet mic as he took off his sunglasses. "Ted Rorchek wasn't exaggerating in the slightest."

"No, sir." replied Morgan, swiftly winging over to Helipad One by the medical center. It was still downwind of the stinging smoke and toxic fumes. "But we've managed to rescue about a hundred and eighty people so far. Some from a business jet, others from a restaurant and its stairway, one from the control tower,
a few from outbuildings, and two dozen from that middle airplane. I've really been listening to all of their radio transmissions."

"More to come in and out by air?"

"I promise you that personally, Dr. Brackett." Morgan said, her face filled with conviction.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dr. Brackett stepped out of Morgan's chopper. "Thank you, Pilot Wainwright."

"My pleasure, doc." she said, closing both their hatch doors. Then she rushed off to see about refueling her bird.

An ambulance pulled up and a helicopter paramedic leaned out the driver's window. "I'm Steven Beck. I'm giving you a ride. The only way in's through a basement garage ramp."

Kel jumped in and belted up once more. Soon, they had arrived. Kel finally met the woman in charge. "Joanne Almstedt?"

"Kel Brackett." she grinned tiredly, taking his hand as she kept one eye on the bustling triage activity surrounding them. "Thanks for coming. I didn't know my broadcasted calls for help had this kind of pull." she said, indicating him.

"I've an invested interest in a couple of paramedics working as guest firefighters here. Where they go, sometimes I follow." he shrugged with humor.

"Spoken like a mother hen."

"More like a rooster in my case." Kel smiled. "Show me what you have and I'll get started."

"Uh, first things first. Here." said Steven Beck, thrusting a navy knapsack at Kel.

"What's this?" Brackett said, hefting it up onto his shoulder.

"Food and water. Keep it yours." Beck chided. "Can't guarantee you'll be able to get to the R and R tents out on the infield even later on."

"Appreciate it." Brackett said sincerely.

"Well, I'd better get back to the green zone. Just heard more patients are needing a trip in." Steven said, holding up his radio. "Oh, doc." he said, eyeing up Joanne. "If it gets any hairy-er, we'll need one of you for invasive procedures outside."

"I'll go. Just say when, Steve." Joanne replied.

Beck nodded and hurried back to his ambulance.

Sighing expansively, Joanne leaned against a garage pillar for a short stolen breather. She was startled when she saw a juice box and a box of cheese thrust insistently into her hands.

"My first orders. Eat, doctor." Kel told her. "And don't tell me you haven't had time yet."

Joanne made a face.

"That's his line, ma'am.." said an approaching voice. It was Johnny Gage, still wearing sooty turnout and an air bottle. There was a spot of blood on his face. "I suggest you let him have it." he grinned.

Roy DeSoto nodded next to him. "So true."

"Boys." Brackett grinned hugely as all four of them headed for the table that held charts on the most critical victims who still needed examinations and treatments. "Good to see you."

"Doc, what are you doing here?" Gage asked, happy at the surprise.

Kel slapped his arm. "Can't let you handle it all. Dixie was very upset with me. She was steamed that she wasn't authorized to fly out here herself so she told me to come and bail your butts. Exact quote."

Gage grunted in amusement, shaking his head.

DeSoto was all serious as he turned to Joanne. "There's a case over here that needs your attention. A neonate. It's over our heads."

"Show us both." Almstedt told him.

Eagerly, Kel and Joanne followed the L.A. County paramedics back to a place on the floor amid the sea of casualties awaiting care on neat, yellow tarps.

"He was born a few minutes ago." DeSoto reported. "Pulse 130,
respirations a little fast, Apgar of 8. He's no longer so vigorous as he was when we first delivered him."

Kel and Joanne knelt down and noted the oxygen mask that a nurse was holding over the infant's face as they gloved up.

"Keep rubbing him dry, Roy. I'll have listen." Kel said, snatching the stethoscope from around Roy's neck quickly. A few seconds later he looked up. "A murmur. Sounds like a major congenital valve S4. He's not getting enough blood to all of his systems. That's probably why he was so limp off oxygen. I want an EKG established immediately with a central subclavian line. Can we book him a fast flight to a neonate thoracic surgeon?" he asked Gage.

"Your wish is my command." said Johnny, grinning, relieved. He got busy on the airwaves.

The baby's mother lay wearily on her burn sheet package pillow as Joanne examined her carefully. "How's he doing? ... My baby, can you help him?" she sobbed.

"Yes." said Joanne. "He's in good hands. Just relax and keep taking in deep breaths. You still have to deliver that placenta for us." she said, feeling the mother's labor cramps starting in again. "We'll let you hold him in a few minutes."

Kel looked up at Roy. "Go ahead and cut the cord. All the blood has transferred okay." he said, feeling the lack of a pulse in it.

"Right." DeSoto got to work with ties, a pair of scissors and a new set of gloves.

Johnny looked up from his radio. "Morgan's all set. She says that's number one, whatever that means."

Kel smiled. "She's keeping track of a promise made to me."

"That's my girl.." Johnny chuckled, moving on to the next patient.

Dr. Brackett raised both eyebrows but didn't say anything much, aloud.
He just pursed his lips in amusement.

But then the seriousness of their situation and the number of victims still yet to be seen, wiped the mirth away from all four of them.

They slipped into rapid autopilot, moving down the rows.

Chris Rorchek looked up from a boy he was suctioning. "I need a doc over here. This boy's starting to posture." The LMA he had inserted was only just keeping a viable airway open on the child.

Joanne rose to aid him. "Head injury?"

"No, that's what's so puzzling." Chris told her.

"What have you found?" she asked him.

"Bruising on the stomach, no guarding. Lungs are clear.
No cerebral spinal fluid out anywhere. Rapid heartbeat as you see, showing V-tach on the monitor. Respirations slow."

Joanne lifted her gloves. "Whew.. he's hot. Was he in a fire?"

"Nuh uh. He was one of the plane people they got out first.
No smoke they told me. Just probable sound wave concussive injuries from the Concorde's impact."

"Hmmm. Might be a preexisting or escalating condition causing this fever. That would explain a lot. Isolate him into the quarantine area with their staff."

"Okay." Chris said, waving at one of the nurses by the information table over to set that up. "Want anything given past this normal saline I.V.?" Rorchek said, placing the bag under one of the boy's shoulders.

"No, not for now. We're only first line of care. Our job is to stabilize after fixing any life threats. He'll hold until he reaches another doc off the airport." Dr. Almstedt said. "Once the nurse gets here to handle him, tackle the next patient after disinfecting yourself for safety."

"Yes, ma'am."

Joanne looked up to see Steven Beck busy at work loading treated patients into his ambulance for the trip to Stony Brook Medical Center.
He caught her eye and shared some information. "There's an alternative treatment area being set up in Holbrook Park."

"How can folks get there from here?" Almstedt asked to file away for later. "I don't know where any damage is out there except what I've seen." she said heavily, remembering the exploding plane.

Beck didn't miss a beat.
"Take Furrows to Patchogue Rd/Main St. to Broadway Avenue. Once past the Patchogue exit, follow the Holbrook Road out to 495. We're setting up at the park end next to the football stadium in the parking lot."
Beck told her. "There's a big building there we're taking over."

"Will I be asked there if I go?"

"Yes. The infield's no longer safe because of a burning pipeline."

Joanne sighed. "When will it end?" she murmured to herself, mutely returning a wave at his farewell nod.

Dr. Brackett looked up from the man he and Johnny Gage were treating who was suffering from acute smoke inhalation. "Johnny,
listen to his chest once more. I don't believe he's out of the woods yet in spite of the fact that we got him breathing again. I want to know if any superheated air got inside. Rales and pulmonary edema might mean we'll have to rapid sequence intubate him to prevent tracheal adhesion. Let me know if you hear and see any signs of soot or burns in his airway."

Right then, the oxygen masked man awakened, struggling to breathe with suddenly flailing arms and legs. He was choking with pain as he tried to grab for his throat.

Kel shouted.
"He is burned! Sedate him with 20 mg etomidate I.V. I'll follow up with a paralytic for that RSI asap." he said, waving over some firefighters to help hold the man down. Only sitting on the man's arm kept the already in place I.V. catheter from being ripped out. Soon, the sedative returned the man to a protective unconsciousness. "Ready with an endotracheal tube?"

"I've got him sized." Johnny reported, holding up one as he tore open its packaging. "Succinylcholine as the paralytic?"

"Yeah. 1.5 mg/kg IVP. Then preoxygenate him for three with a bag. If we don't get him tubed in thirty seconds find somebody to keep up that ambu until he snaps out of it. I'm only going to try this once." Brackett said, his face twitching in concentration.

Nearby, Roy stopped at the side of a yellow triage tagged teenager, who seemed to be unconscious. Kneeling, he felt for a pulse. Finding none, he checked her eyes. She had dilated pupils. ::Been hypoxic for too long.:: he realized. ::We've lost another one. There are just too many to see fast enough.:: he mourned. Reaching down, he tore her tag from yellow to black swiftly. Wiping away emotion watery eyes, Roy rose.

Without looking back, DeSoto headed for another red tag who didn't yet have a nurse or doctor care-given clipboard lying on their stomach and got to work.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Ted Rorchek getting out of a red Battalion Chief's car.

Photo: Dr. Brackett wearing sunglasses in a sunny parking lot near a red car.

Photo: Morgan Wainwright near her Sheriff's Department rescue chopper.

Photo: Brackett unfolding sunglasses inside of a rescue chopper.

Photo: Flight paramedic Steven Beck standing next to an ambulance.

Photo: Rows of sheet covered dead on stretchers at night.

Photo: A chopper overflying a roof on fire.

Photo: Joanne Almstedt in scrubs, smiling.

Photo: A newborn baby being ventilated by oxygen mask.

Photo: Dr. Brackett in a blue flight suit in close up.

Photo: A bloody yellow triage tagged teenager's face.

*
Subject: Circle Of Flame.. From: patti k ()
Sent: Sun 11/29/09 11:33 AM

Ted Rorchek was ever so glad to be back at the scene. He made headway over to the situation table where he saw Al Martelli and Greg Hicks making a noisy case for a hypothetical.

Martelli shouted. "What do you mean there's nobody left to go searching!
I'm telling you, we've got a man trapped near ticketting. A security supervisor!
He's also the one who warned us all about that g*dd*mned AVgas leak! He probably saved hundreds of lives in doing so. Doesn't that amount to anything?!"

Greg was calmer. "Sir," he addressed the lieutenant from Holbrook facing them who was assigned logistics and supplies. "It's true. We ARE available. Chief Rorchek pulled us from the station personally to take an active assignment along with the others not half an hour ago, but we're more than done now. We were posted at the middle plane, and there's no way in h*ll you don't know how that turned out."

The lieutenant winced and frowned but held firm. "This is why I can't let you guys go back in. And this is straight from the book. You've no safety with you to watch both of your *sses."

"They do now." said a voice from behind them. It was Ted Rorchek. "I'm fresh back from Brookhaven Airport. I was picking up that doctor from California."

The lieutenant threw up his hands. "Okay! All right!" he said sarcastically.
"I guess protocol's satisfied then. Go ahead and go." But then he whipped out a warning finger. "But not until every one of you hands me an accountibility tag first." he warned. "The chief's gonna wanna know exactly who went back in,
and a why."

Three metal tags were unsnapped from turnout jackets and slammed firmly down on the table in a neat row.

Al started beaming. "You won't regret this, bro. If you doubt that there's still a proven victim in there, just listen to our ham radio logs from an hour ago from the dispatcher. You'll hear we were cut off in mid morse."

Ted, Al and Greg went running for their idling fire truck after waving down a just refilled and breakfast fed foam crew company to follow them.

The lieutenant watched them go. "I honestly hope you find him." he said softly to himself. Then he turned back to his pile of note scribbled headaches. Sighing,
he refocused on the worst of the supply problems still facing him, where to find more ambulances to move all of their half treated victims out of their old but newly classified as dangerous green area, the quickest way possible to Holbrook Park,
the new safe zone, a half mile away.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hallie Green and Chris Rorchek, along with Marco Lopez and Mike Stoker,
were the third assigned team getting ready to make an attempt at a valve shut off upstream of the ruptured flaming pipe crater that was slowly reducing a fifty foot round area of the airport's floor, to slag.

"Summer's returned with a vengeance." Green commented, fit testing her faceplate. She could feel the heat from the fuel fire from their position three hundred feet away. The ground in between was absolutely dry and snow free and some parts of the concrete tarmack steamed in the daylight from underground chimneys where the pavement had already cracked from heat stresses.

"Not quite the same." said Marco. "I don't see any palm trees waving in the gentle breezes over there."

Mike joked. "Squint a little. Kinda looks like the beach at sunset."

"Maybe in July." Lopez said, grinning right back in his scba.

Hallie Green turned to Chris as all four slowly advanced towards a substation hut by the fire with their pair of hoses on wide fan for some cooling protection. "So how's triage going at the medical center?" Green asked.

"Slowly. A lot of cases moving through aren't even directly related to fire or any of the crashes. I saw DeSoto and Gage working a birth, and I had an infectious case of some kind."

"Oooo, what?"

"Maybe meningitis. He had the rash and the symptomology almost point for point."

"How old?"

"Oh, eight or so." Chris replied.

"He'll make it." Green told him. "Somebody has to. We've lost enough today." Hallie said as if her statement made fact happen.

Chris grinned. "Hear, hear." he agreed.

Soon, they were close enough for tools.

A quick lock snipper cut the padlock over the latch but the door soon showed itself as heat warped and jammed. Over the roar of the fire to their right, Chris and Stoker grabbed out halligans to try and force the metal door's hinges off.
Hallie and Marco kept their joined fanning spray arches directed over the fire radiant geyser, deflecting its killer heat away from themselves.

Glowing red hot metal groaned, but didn't give way to heavily applied crowbars.

Mike grunted. "I wish... I had...a Hurst tool right now.." he strained as he and Chris threw their backs into the door, side by side and shoulder to shoulder, gripping their bars with their thick thermal gloves.

"Why? And ruin a good workout?" Rorchek grimaced. "Aren't you having any fun yet?"

"No.." Mike gasped through his mask.

Suddenly, there was an explosion from the geyser when it surged into regrowth.
The four firefighters were forced to hide in the hut's meager outline shadow for protection.

But paint even on the shadowed side of the sizzling metal shingling before them,
started to flake off and burn.

"Retreat!" Rorchek shouted to all of them. "It's too hot now! We gotta find another valve we can get to more easily."

Rushing backwards, still in a double fanning hose attack, Hallie, Chris, Marco and Stoker got out of there.

Once at the snowline, Stoker lifted his HT as he pulled off his smoking rubber mask.
"HT-1A to IC2. The east hut's just become inaccessible!"

##10-4. Try the one in ticketting. One of the other teams says there's a partial wall still standing between that valve access closet and the fire.## said Stanley.

"Roger. Heading over there." Mike told Cap.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Al Martelli and Greg Hicks picked up their pace as they reentered the silent,
dark airport terminal. They were a long distance away, but they could still hear the steaming loud hiss of the burning fuel line geyser at the other end of the concourse. "This feels d*mned good. There's nothing like the freedom of a search and rescue team." Martelli exclaimed. "Ticketting's this way. The security office is just around the corner."

Ted Rorchek called another halt as he checked and rechecked the ceilings, floors,
surrounding walls and their air bottles, for problems. "Yeah, but we're getting there in one piece all right? Slow down."

Greg Hicks nodded. "You're right. We're acting like rookies, rushing in."

"But I have to know if he's all right." Al insisted.

"We'll find out soon enough. He's not going anywhere." Ted told his crewmate.
"Now turn around. I want to check your regulator again. The gas sniffer says the air's breathable in here, but still a little toxic even though the roof's collapsed."

Martelli huffed under his breath but obeyed the youngest Rorchek.

Nearby, the conveyor belt panel under a ticketting counter was kicked out with a tiny foot. "Help!" cried a voice. "I can't get out. The suitcases fell on top of me."

Al whirled in his tracks. "Is that a kid?!"

Greg said, "Yeah, I think it came from over there." he said.

All three of them redirected flashlights and saw a pair of flailing legs, stomach down.

They hurried over and flipped up the counter's access section. Crawling in,
they began throwing toppled suitcase after suitcase off of the conveyor belt,
getting to the pile they saw lying on top of a little boy. "Easy kid! Don't move.
We're getting you out!"

The kicking stopped.

Ted shouted. "What's your name?"

"Danny! *cough* *cough*."

"Are you hurt?"

"No... I can't breathe! They're falling!" Then he screamed, the sound abruptly cutting off.

The firefighters began uncovering debris and roofing sections even faster.
Greg shouted. "Danny?! Keep talking to us!"

There was no reply. Rorchek dove into the hole and crawled forward onto the belt as Greg and Al continued to unbury and toss away fallen suitcases,
exposing an open route.

Ted's flashlight finally found the silhouette of a body in the smoke.
He scooted forward on his belly and quickly, he reached up an arm and pulled the limp boy towards his chest and out from under a large heavy box. Danny wasn't moving or breathing where he lay face down.

Pressing a resuscitator mask attached to his air bottle to the boy's face, Ted thumb triggered a few short manual breaths after securing an open airway.
"Danny? Can you hear me? Start breathing again. Guys, get in here! He's in respiratory trouble."

Al squeezed into the space with Ted. "How long down?"

"Just now." Ted replied, keeping the resuscitator mask sealed tightly over the boy's face while he pressed button regulated air into his lungs.

Martelli reached for the boy's neck. "He's still got a pulse. Give him a few more shots. His color's not that bad yet."

Ted complied, holding Danny's head firm as he made sure he was getting chest rise. Then a few of the boy's fingers twitched and he started coughing.

"There you go. Take another breath." Rorchek encouraged. "Breathe this in."

Weakily, Danny tried to push the air regulator from his face as he started to panic at feeling his nose and mouth covered up.

"Easy, just relax. You need this. Suck it in! If you can't yet, I'll be right here to help you." Ted told him. "Just try and keep awake for us, okay?"

Danny groaned and opened his eyes. "I-I ...*gasp* I can't find Mom and Dad."
he whispered, out of breath. "Last I remember, we were in the restaurant."

Al and Ted both looked at each other. Then Martelli got close to the boy.
"People will look for them, Danny, I promise. But first we need to get you someplace safe and to a doctor. You took in a lot of smoke."

Outside behind the counter, Greg hollered. "Got to move! The fuel's burning brighter down there. Just started happening."

"Okay, we'll get Danny out to triage, and then we'll circle around the other way to the security office." Martelli agreed.

"Let's go." Ted Rorchek said, gathering up Danny into his arms.
The boy's eyes were unfocused slits again. "He's not doing so well."

Al Martelli gave one last longing look down the glowing hallway that led to the security wing, but then he raised his HT to his lips. "HT-1B to IC2. We found a semi-conscious male pediatric victim. Severe smoke inhalation. Respond another paramedic team with full resuscitation gear to the yellow zone nearest our entry point."

##10-4.## replied Captain Stanley. ##Contacting the medical center now.##

-----------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Hicks, Martelli and Ted Rorchek receiving orders at a situation table from a white helmeted lieutenant.

Photo: Marco Lopez running with a backboard.

Photo: Firefighters digging under debris.

Photo: Hose water entering a hot fire at night.

Photo: A luggage claim conveyor belt carousel.

Photo: Firefighters testing a doorway with air masks on.

Photo: A boy lying unconscious inside of a conveyor tunnel.

Photo: An airmasked Ted ventilating a boy with a positive pressure valve.

Photo: Two firefighters discussing escape with a victim in fire glow.

*
Subject: Life On The Line.. From: patti k () Sent: Mon 11/30/09 12:18 AM

Ted Rorchek ran for the open air and the relative safety of the airport tarmack apron, carrying his tiny living burden. Greg Hicks and Al Martelli were close behind, only breaking off for a few moments to flag down a passing fire engine to accost their oxygen apparatus and airway kit.

That crew volunteered a wool blanket as well before continuing on their way to go off duty for a food and rest break and a fresh top off of fuel, water and foam.

Ted Rorchek peeled out of his air bottle just as its low air warning began to sound. Frustrated, he threw away the secondary air mask he was using to protect Danny's lungs.

Chief Joe Rorchek knelt by the boy Ted had just leaned into a sitting up position against his knees. "This the lad you reported?"

"Yeah, dad." said Ted. "Name's Danny. Don't know the last."

"Hmmm. Danny.. do you know where you are?" asked Joe, his breath steaming in the chilly daylight as he attempted to get a new status.

The boy just articulated nonsensical sounds and he only coughed weakly when tapped lightly.

Greg Hicks wrapped him up snugly into the warm blanket.
"He's pretty out of it. Might be hypoxia working on him." Greg suggested. "Ted said a fallen box almost suffocated him."

"There were only a few fumes from the area near the pipe fire." Al shared, handing the chief the case he and Greg had pilfered which contained oxygen gear. "But that's not saying much if he was stuck in there for a long time."

"Was the heat real bad?" the Chief asked as he strung out the resuscitator mask and turned on the oxygen flow from the tank.

"No. It was pretty cool from a hole in the roof." Ted said, loosening the boy's shirt more away from his throat. "Let's keep him upright. It'll help him breathe a little better."

Greg Hicks shared more history. "He respiratory arrested on us for about half a minute, Chief." he said, searching the boy's pants for I.D. "Nothing's here. His pockets are empty."

Danny moaned, only half awake, twitching in his arms and legs.
The blue shirted boy's head lulled around in a daze, so Ted and Joe set the new mask against the child's face with a couple of palms to maintain a tight enough fit to deliver as close to one hundred percent O2 as they could manage.

The ragdoll spasming continued.

"Danny?" Joe shared. "You're outside and safe. This is oxygen. Breathe deeply so it can clear out your chest. Can you understand me?"

But Danny didn't reply. His limbs fell still. And his lips began to suddenly turn chalk as a cold sheen of sweat peppered his face.

"Ah, he's going out. Set him flat. Something's wrong." the airport paramedic worried. Quickly, Al did as Ted bid and lay Danny down. Martelli tilted back his head for a listen, and laid a hand on the boy's chest to feel for movement. "D*mn. He's quit again."

"Pulse?" Ted asked, grabbing an oropharyngeal airway from the pack.

"There. But it's very irregular. " Al confirmed as he started to ventilate the boy gently using the demand valve resuscitator. "Just like the last time."
Joe Rorchek rose to his feet and got on the radio. "IC1 to IC2, where are those paramedics for the male minor on Tarmack Three? Condition is going critical."

##IC2 to IC1, their . is two minutes. Code Three.## replied Captain Stanley. ## I'm on my way over there myself with a peds AED from a doctor. Everybody else is tied up.##

"Best speed possible, then better, captain." Joe transmitted.

##Understood. My pedal's in China.## Hank replied.

"What's he at?" Ted ordered, after he had gotten a short breathing tube placed over the boy's tongue.

"Around 120-130 best guess." Hicks said. "At the carotid only."

"Sinus tachycardia? Shock with a dropping B.P.? This has gotta be more than just smoke inhalation."

Al was honest. "Whatever it is, it's not being nice at all." he exclaimed in frustration.

Ted mumbled. "I wish I had my med kit with me or even just an EKG monitor."

"All of that's on the way, son." Joe said, placing a hand on Ted's shoulder.
"Any chance this might be a chemical poisoning?" the chief wondered.

"Whoa!"
Beside them, Hicks startled. "It's gone. I-I just lost it." he said, shifted suddenly from his crouched toes to his knees as he refumbled for a correct groping grip on Danny's neck.

"You sure?" Al asked Greg, not stopping his mechanical ventilations.

Ted waved an attention gesture. "Martelli, hold off a second."

Al froze his trigger fingers, and his whole body.

Ted quickly lowered his head to the boy's chest. "That's odd. I'm hearing a very rapid heartbeat." he said in puzzlement, with an ear to Danny's skin.

"Yeah? Well, I'm not feeling one!" Greg insisted.

Ted tightened his lips and immediately placed fast palms over Danny's chest and started aggressive CPR. "Pulseless V-Tach then. Explains a lot. Dad, we got real trouble here. This boy's gonna die if we don't see some cardiac drugs or a defib inside the next minute and a half."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Ted Rorchek in a yellow and red fire helmet, closeup.

Photo: Chief Joe Rorchek ventilating a seated boy with a resuscitator.

Photo: Chief Joe Rorchek, closeup in a white helmet.

Photo: Johnny Gage in full scba, running fast.

Photo: Ted and Al Martelli doing CPR on a boy with a resuscitator.

Photo: A red AED in a cabinet. *
Subject : Code From: patti k ()
Sent: Mon 11/30/09 1:26 PM

Al glanced up. "Hyperventilation?"

"Flood him." Ted grunted as he continued to deliver chest compressions.
"No such thing as too much oxygen for him any more."

Greg Hicks felt for the boy's pulse point in his neck. "I'm getting a good pulse with those compressions, Ted."

"Okay." Rorchek stated, concentrating on pressing down evenly and regular,
but fast. "Keeping it at one hundred a minute. Any cyanosis?"

Martelli peeled back Danny's lip in between breaths. "Nope, none."

Ted sighed. "Good. He's not gonna be acidotic at all."

A yellow fire engine barrelled down and squealed to a halt next to Joe's red flashing lit battalion car. Captain Stanley leaped out of the passenger cab with a soft shelled red case, the AED. He ran to the others' sides and immediately, he and Joe began cutting away the rest of Danny's shirt.

"Joanne says this one's fresh. It wasn't used today yet." Stanley shouted.

Hank turned on the unit as he and Joe strung and connected the wires to the unit. Then they peeled the protector paper off of the two electrode pads. One Joe placed on the right side of Danny's chest, the other, Hank stuck onto the boy's back below a shoulder blade by slipping a fast hand underneath him.

"Okay, everybody clear. Let it analyze." Joe ordered. Al lifted away the resuscitator and Ted stopped compressions. ##Do not touch patient. Analyzing rhythm.## Seconds crawled by like eons when it finally sounded a message. ##Shock advised.## the AED's module declared. ##Stand clear of patient.##

"Yep. Pulseless V-tach around 163. See that?" he said pointing to the digital display in green showing on the AED's small window. "This first shock will be 2 joules/kg." Ted told them all. "Don't touch him until after it analyzes and gives him a shock, if it needs to, a third time."

A strong jolt coursed through Danny's limbs softly. ##Shocked delivered.## the AED said. ##Do not touch patient. Analyzing rhythm.##

"Come on." Ted urged when the boy didn't convert afterwards. "All right, 4 joules/kg.
Double strength."

##Shock advised.## it said, still displaying the deadly dysrhythmia on its screen.
##Stand clear of patient.## A second spasm wracked Danny's body, then it relaxed again into stillness. ##Shock delivered.##

"Nothing yet." Hank said, watching Danny closely. "No reaction."

##Do not touch patient. Analyzing rhythm.## the machine stated a third time.

Ted studied its screen. "He's slipping a bit. It's coarse v-fib now."

##Shock advised. Stand clear of patient.##

All five firefighters held their breaths. Again a surge of electricity jolted Danny.

##Shock delivered. Check patient. Check breathing. Check pulse. If no pulse, resume CPR.## the AED transmitted.

Al and Greg examined Danny swiftly. "It didn't work. Still nothing."

"Start CPR." Joe told them as Ted started compressions once more.

Hank said, "Joanne told me this one will automatically reanalyze again after two minutes of CPR." he said, pointing to the AED lying open in its case.

"All right." Ted nodded. "Take over?" he said to Cap.

"Yep." and Hank started in after knocking Ted's hands away neatly.
"Just so you all know, every red tag's been seen. That's why we're being allowed to work this boy. Triage restrictions have officially been lifted.
Dr. Brackett's orders."

Ted shook his head where he was maintaining a Sellick's hold below Danny's adam's apple to prevent distention and chance vomiting from Al's ventilations. "Wish I could talk to the man."

"You can." Joe said, pulling out an HT and switching channels. "IC1 to Triage2. Respond on this frequency. This is an emergency communication."

##This is Dr. Brackett..##

Ted smiled, reaching for the handy talkie eagerly with his free hand.
"Doc, boy am I glad to hear you." he began.

Right then, a red rescue squad bearing the logo of the airport hurried across a runway full tilt, avoiding still smoldering piles of debris. Behind her, ran Sophie the fire dog. The lights and sirens cut off when they reached the scene.

Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage rushed out, grabbing every piece of airport fire station medical gear they could find from the vehicle's storage holds. They ran to the boy.

"What happened?" Johnny asked.

Ted told him. "At first, smoke inhalation. But now an unknown cause.
Initially pulseless V-tach, now showing V-Fib. Three shocks unsuccessful.
He was a witnessed arrest. Never lost oxygenation. Found near the restaurant."

"How long has he been down?" Roy asked.

"Four minutes, twenty eight seconds." Al replied, still watching the timer on the watch he had started.

"Keep hyperventilating him." Johnny ordered Martelli. "We're going to tube him next for medications."

Roy was already preparing the intubation gear. "He's about eight years old, Johnny. I'm going with a 6.0 cuffed French." he said bending a stylet into a curving shape. "In case he ate dinner last night."

Gage nodded, tearing open a lubricant pack with his teeth. He tossed an empty syringe to Greg. "Draw up ten cc's air into that."
he requested.

Roy tore off a long piece of tape and stuck it onto his leg. Then he assembled and locked a curved blade the right size onto a laryngoscope.

Johnny took the ET tube Roy had laid out on Danny's stomach and tested the bulb on the end by inflating and deflating it with Greg's syringe to check for leaks. There were none. He left the phalange dangling off the airway's tubing.

Roy threaded the stylet down the lubricated ET tube part way and bend off the tip at the top so it wouldn't fall down further.

He nodded at Al. "Any head or neck trauma?"

"No.." everybody said. "He fainted."

"Hyperventilate him more." Gage told Al.

Martelli did for a minute while Cap's CPR still went on.
Then both backed off to give Roy and Johnny room to work.

Roy tipped back Danny's head and opened his mouth with a few crossed fingers. Then he removed the oral airway neatly while Ted still maintained the cricoid pressure hold.

He used the blade of the scope to sweep away Danny's tongue to the side with his left hand and threaded down the ET tube and stylet to just below Danny's vocal cords with his right. "I'm in." Roy said, throwing away the blade and handle and guiding stylet wire. He held the tube firmly with both hands so it couldn't move. "Al?"

Al reattached a bag valve mask on high flow to the top of the tube's port and gave the boy a few breaths.

Gage threw on a stethoscope and began listening at all points on Danny's chest for breath sounds. "You're in the right bronchial tree, Roy." he frowned. "Pull up a bit."

Roy started withdrawing the tube slightly, centimeter by centimeter,
waiting for Johnny's word.

"Okay, stop. Right there. Breath sounds equal and clear on both sides. Tape it off. Start in on CPR again, guys, we're set."

Hank began his one handed compressions once more.

Roy announced a finding. "He's at 15 cm." he said, taping off the tube so it couldn't slip up or down with the piece of tape he wrapped around its end port and the back of Danny's head and neck.

Ted let go of the Sellick's maneuver, sighing in relief.
"Doc, that's about as much as we know so far. He's just been ET intubated." he transmitted over radio.

The AED began to cycle once more in analysis. While it was doing so, with another halt in CPR, Johnny accepted the HT Ted handed to him.

##51, I've been told your victim's still in a shockable rhythm, administer 0.1 mg/kg of 1:1,000 Epinephrine solution followed by 10 ml Normal Saline wash by ET. Skip attempting any intravenous access. That'll just waste time. I'm also passing on using sodium bicarbonate. That'll only neutralize his epi on us. It's probably unnecessary as he's been given CPR since the onset. Shock him one more time and get back to me.## ordered Brackett.

"10-4, Triage 2. Administer 0.1 mg/kg of 1:1,000 Epinephrine with a 10 ml NS bolus ET. Then shock 4 joules/kp times one." Gage reaffirmed.

##Standing by.##

Roy checked his glass ampoule of medication for its amount and identity.
It was clear in color still and way before its expiration date. "Concentration 1/1,000." he called out to Johnny.

Gage handed Roy a 20cc syringe fitted with a sterile 21 gauge needle and uncapped it.

Quickly, Roy drew up the epinephrine and saline and shot it quickly down the endotracheal tube that Al had already detached from his ambu bag. "Okay, vent him twice, fast, to aerosolize that med." DeSoto told him as he threw away the spent syringe and needle into a sharps bin.

Johnny wrote down everything they were doing and time stamped each step onto a rescue clipboard before he handed it over to Ted to add his own care notes.

##Shock advised. Stand clear of patient.## the AED droned.

Danny jumped a little higher this time. But the display screen still showed coarse ventricular fibrillation.

"Start in again, guys." Roy sighed.

Al and Cap continued CPR.

"Doc, no conversion." Johnny shared with Dr. Brackett over the handy talkie.

##Give him Lidocaine 1 mg/kg ET. And defibrillate. If that doesn't work,
repeat with a second and any then subsequent doses of epinephrine ET at 0.1 mg/kg of 1:1,000 solution. Do CPR for a minute. Then give a shock. If no conversion, use Lidocaine again, at the same dose up to three doses, every twelve minutes. The pattern will be shock/med/CPR for 60/shock/med/
CPR for 60,..until you reach both your medications' maximum dosages. Repeat the epi every 3 to 5 minutes. Bring him in as soon as you can, 51. Maintain that CPR if he stays pulseless or if the AED doesn't indicate a shockable rhythm and you still can't detect a palpable heartbeat. We'll work with additional meds once he gets here after a full leads ekg reading so we can better see what's going on with his conductivity.## "10-4, doc. We're on it." said Johnny, passing the HT to Greg.

They set to work with a vengeance as the sun climbed higher and clearer in the cold winter sky.

Its beauty in the heavens went unnoticed amid the scene of a H*ll on Earth by the rescue team surrounding the boy.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Roy and Johnny performing child CPR in front of a burning building.

Animation: An AED EKG window displaying a pulseless V-tach cardiac rhythm.

Photo: Roy air purging a bolus of Normal Saline.

Photo: Cap performing CPR on a victim being prepped for defibrillation.

Photo: Doctor Brackett with a handy talkie in his hand, in triage blue.

*
Subject: The Real World From: patti k ()
Sent: Tue 12/01/09 1:12 PM

"Right there!" pointed Hallie, shouting through the roar of the air circulating in her scba mask. "The back door into ticketting!"

"Where are we? I don't recognize anything any more." the oldest Rorchek son asked, eyeing up all the black and steaming, charred remains of buildings and vehicles around them in the bright daylight. The heavy snow that had fallen in the night had completely evaporated away in the heat of the fuel fire's geyser that they could see in the distance.

Green answered. "A&P Aircraft Maintenance, Inc. North side and east of the taxi stands according to our GPS."

Mike Stoker and Marco Lopez aimed their water hose at the fire scorched door to cool it down. Licks of fire were dying all around them on tar melted pavement. When the steam lessened, Chris Rorchek felt the door with a bare hand pulled from a glove. "Can't tell if this heat's internal or external." he said, gingerly testing the soot pocked metal surface.

"Only one way to tell." Stoker said. "I'm opening it."

Immediately, the others framed into a V shape with fanning hose sprays while Mike eased to the side of the door frame, out of range.

"Ready?" Mike asked, hefting up the halligan from his fire jacket.

"Yeah." they said.

Mike popped open the door and ducked, but no punishing flames burst out. The interior was dark and no longer smoky.

Chris grinned. "Maybe that hole in the roof of the building's cooled things down enough to start putting the fire out. I can't imagine carpetting burning for long in there. The floor underneath's all concrete." he said,
readjusting his faceplate when they had their hoses turned off again.

Marco Lopez nodded an invite in. "Tell that to the fuel leak. Just look at that fire column. It must be at least three hundred feet high."

Chris merely glanced at it.
"We'll be nowhere near it. How hard can it be? One quick in, turn a valve,
one quick out and we'll be heroes. Anything's got to be easier than that red hot hut we just attempted. This is easy street with no burn, man." Rorchek grinned, hefting up his strapped on air bottle onto his shoulders a little higher to ease the ache in his back.

Hallie looked automatically over her shoulder and wiped water droplets off her mask with a soggy glove. "Where's our foam crew?"

"They're all converging on the mother fire at ground zero. Everything else has been contained." Lopez told her. "They're going to try and smother the burning fuel feeders flowing away from it along the runway. One's been threatening the medical center and runway 24A. That's why the green zone's been moved out to a nearby city park."

"Red zone, one block, or one mile big... doesn't matter to me." said Chris. "All I know is that I wanna be in it." he laughed.

The others chuckled and together they dragged their hoses, in defense of fire tricks, into the building.

Chris reported in. "GPS on, IC1. P.A.S.S.'s are active. We're going in."

##10-4, HT-1B. Tracking you on live monitor.## replied Joe Rorchek.

Helmet lights barely traced the path to ticketting. Fresh firefighter footprints marred the sooty carpetting where signs of a rescue lay around one luggage check in counter. Ted peered at one bootprint. "Number 7." he read, seeing a company number stamped into dirt. "That's my bro. They must have found that victim they went after." he said, eyeing up a used air bottle resuscitator tab.

"Who?" Hallie asked as they hurried to the back of the public area towards the furnace room and fuel line control closet they wanted.

"A security supe. The one who warned us about the fuel rupture on the ham radio." Rorchek replied.

"Good. That man deserves all the credit for saving our rears. If we hadn't known about that, we could have all been fried inside the terminal when the gas fumes started building up high and one of us sparked them off by using a radio." Green said firmly.

Stoker was thoughtful. "Wait a minute. There's daylight down there. A lot of it."

The others stopped and looked up at the ceiling. Large sections of roofing were hanging by ruptured struts and ripped insulation and wiring. Here and there, bright chrome heating ducts lay fallen and twisted through ragged tears.

Lopez tried experimentally poking a loose section ahead of them with his pike hook. "It's holding." he said when nothing but small debris fell down. "At least this part is."

"We'll keep an eye on it." said Chris as they passed it by.

Flipping their two charged hoses around a corner, the four firefighters headed down a red glowing, emergency battery alighted hallway.

A low rumbling roar shook the foundations and caused a miniquake around them that made pieces of debris fall all around them. The air filled with fresh falling embers.

They protectively huddled onto the floor underneath a table while they waited for the distant explosion around the fuel fire to fade.

When it was over, they got to their feet.

Mike Stoker looked uneasy. "We'd better hurry. Sounds like it's growing."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The tremor running through the medical center's foundation, died away.

The active scanner at the desk, went wild. It started broadcasting fire department speak out over the treatment area where Dr. Brackett and Dr. Almstedt was still working over yellow triage tagged victims.

They both looked up to listen. Chief Joe Rorchek's voice soon spoke.
## Units 9 through 17. Form an active foam attack upwind of the hotspot.
Ladder 9, check out Ambulance 2. She was passing downwind when that new activity began. Let me know a status.##

Joanne looked up from the little girl she was treating with a gasp. Ambulance 2 was flight paramedic Steven Beck's assigned rig for victim evacuations.

Dr. Brackett glanced at her. "Joanne?" he asked, thinking the crying little girl was the cause of Joanne's reaction.

"A friend out there.. if ...you know what I mean." she said vaguely so she wouldn't alarm the parents watching her work on splinting their daughter's broken arm.

Kel nodded, understanding.

Then the radio scanner burst into life once again. It was Ladder 9. ##L9 to IC1, we've a confirmed FD rollover MVA with a Code I. Ejected, with a pulse.##

Joanne shot to her feet. "Steve!" she shouted, tears of surprise spilling down her cheek. "Dr. Brackett, you're in charge! This girl's done."

Stunned by her reaction, Dr. Brackett clambored to his feet to hold onto her arm. He spoke softly so only the two of them could hear. "Joanne, think again. We still have a lot of untreated people here."

"They can wait, remember? That's the beauty of yellow and green triage tags. Don't tell me that an ejected will be one of those and without significant trauma." Dr. Almstedt snapped.

Kel's cheek twitched. "That's true. There's only one red tag coming in and he's in full arrest. All right. At least take a radio." he barked, tossing her one. "We'll stay in touch with one another."

Joanne fled the medical center through the basement garage ramp with a full medical bag flung over her shoulder. "I'll let you know his condition as soon as I know." she shouted back.

Joanne buttoned up her EMS turnout against the cold as she hurried to the only triage area she knew, the one she could see out the mylar taped windows of the medical center. Vaguely, she wondered why it was so sparsely populated by stretchered victims. She got a few curious stares from running air bottled firefighters rushing towards the fuel fire but that was all. She was flanking the marked off area around the cold middle plane burn when she heard a loud man's groan to the right.

Stopping and turning, she spied a crawling man in security gray floundering in the foam. She whipped her radio to her mouth. "This is Dr. Almstedt, near the airplanes. I've a conscious male victim spotted. I need immediate help."

She paused, staying where she was, torn between remaining a visual flag for an arriving fire team or rushing in the short twenty yards it would take to reach the airport worker and help him out.

##This is IC1 to the civilian on triage channel. You are in a red zone. Evacuate immediately! ## warned Chief Rorchek.

The security supervisor collapsed suddenly, face down in the foam.

Joanne reacted and ran towards him into the smoke. ::He'll suffocate in that:
she thought.

She got about ten steps into the strange fog when she started choking and coughing violently. She dropped to her knees and the world started swimming before her eyes. The air around her became thin and sharp.

Suddenly, a pair of strong hands grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked her to her feet. It was Joe Rorchek, wearing full scba. One of his gloves pressed a mask of medical oxygen tightly to her face as he hauled her back the way she had come and into open daylight, her under one arm and the second around the bottle of oxygen.

"Now that's the dumbest thing I've ever seen! The air's poison in there, doctor!"

She didn't reply and only choked as she staggered after him where he led.

"Keep breathing this in." he ordered. Once they were in clear air, he sat her down on the runner of his car. A firefighter rushed up to offer aid, but the chief waved him away. "She's fine, firefighter. A few seconds inside only. This is just some active stupid."

Joanne could finally speak. "I'm sorry. Nobody else seemed to see him and he didn't look that far away to me." she said, finally holding the oxygen mask herself.

Nearby, a team of air bottled silver suited firefighters bore away the semiconscious security supervisor in a stokes, heading for the hazmat showers in Holbrook Park.

"A fire zone's no place for civilians!" Joe roared. "What is it with you nurses and doctors? Always thinking that you can do it all. You want to play firefighter? I suggest you join the fire department legally!"

"I'm sorry, Joe." she coughed, clinging to the oxygen. "I was actually... really trying to find Steven Beck. He-- "

"Yeah, he was in Ambulance 2, but he's not here. We're evacuating this triage position for obvious reasons. Didn't you notice? We immobilized him and sent him to Holbrook Park." Joe pursed his lips. "D*mn it, doctor. The last thing we need is an M.D. out of commission! Just what were you thinking?!"

"I-- Steve's a good friend. I'm s-sorry.." Joanne said, finally unballing her free fist,
still coughing.

Joe's ire finally cooled. He studied her thoughtfully as she shivered in her coat and tried to slow her breathing rate for him. Then he said. "I'd be lying if I said I've never done the same thing you just did. Every rookie falls for that trap.. until he learns better." He let go of her arm. "Steadier now?"

She nodded as her coughing subsided.

"Okay, hop in." he said, indicating his car. "I'll take you to where Steve is. The paramedics are calling for a doctor."

"No sh*t." she hissed, angry at herself, taking the oxygen bottle he handed her.

"By the time we get there, you'll be cleaned out lungwise. Those fumes were just some CO and irritants. You were lucky." he told her. "Keep that oxygen strapped to your face until we get there." He tossed her foam covered radio into her lap where it landed with a squishy plop. "And guess what? It didn't break when you dropped it."
Joanne raised her eyebrows, properly chastened as the bite of a raw throat began around shock trembling muscles. She busied herself with cleaning the stickiness off the radio with a nimble parka sleeve. Then she looked up. "Are you going to tell anyone about this?"

"About what? You're not hurt so nobody has to know." he glared. "Officially."

Dr. Almstedt started to focus on unzipping crucial pockets on her trauma bag.
"I can live with you and your men lecturing me for the next decade about my sheer stupidity." she grinned. "Thanks, Joe."

He just harrumphed as he turned his lights and sirens on for the trip across the boulevard. He picked up his car mic. "IC1 to IC2. I'll be 10-7 for three dropping off a doctor to Holbrook staging for a red tag."

##10-4, IC1. I'm available from that peds resuscitation. I'll assume complete operations until you get back.## replied Captain Stanley.

"I stand relieved." Joe confirmed through the transmission.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Joanne looking distressed at news.

Photo: Joe Rorchek on a radio mic by a fire engine.

Photo: A big fuel burn between tankers.

Photo: Joe Rorchek leading an oxygenating Dr. Almstedt away from danger.

Photo: Mike Stoker looking worried about a scene.

Photo: Firefighters ducking in a debris fall.

Photo: A woman arff suiting up into thermal turnout.

Photo: Cap with Roy and Johnny surrounded by ruins.

*
Subject: Spacewalk.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Wed 12/02/09 1:22 AM

They reached the boiler room. A fast check over the radio confirmed that their present assignment, seeking the pipeline's main shut off, was still a go. Sweating heavily, they added an additional length of canvas from yet another emergency hose water valve alcove to one of their trailing inch and a halves. The lack of active fire in the area made them wait until its entire length was fully played out before they charged it into top pressure.

Stoker halted before the door and was transfixed before a sign displaying there. "Oh, I don't like the looks of that." he said.

"What?" Chris asked, testing the door handle. "It's not even locked."
he grinned.

"No, that." Mike said, pointing to the sign.

Chris looked. "Oh." Rorchek peeped. "That's a big dislike, coming from you, Stoker. But I find I'm agreeing with you one hundred percent on this one."

Marco Lopez squinted through his mask and rubbed some more grime off of its red surface. Then he began reading. "Warning. Do not enter area when alarm is sounding. This area is protected by a Tyco Sapphire clean agent fire suppression system. Area must be ventilated prior to re-entry."

Chris frowned. "Oh, man. I hate it when places I work for get technology installed that's way over my head. What the h*ll does clean agent mean?"

Stoker tried not to offend. "Uh, it means it evacuates all the air and oxygen entirely in the space into which it's released but leaves behind no traces once it's done acting on a fire."

Rorchek rubbed his faceplate. "You mean it becomes an f..ing outer space vacuum in there once it decides to go off?"

Stoker and Lopez and Green nodded in kind, mutely, trying to break it gently.

Chris's face fell slack with smouldering anger. "I really don't like that concept. Not a whole lot at all. Not even a little." he said, holding up eensy fingers of a glove. "Listen. Do we really have to go in there? I mean, I'm all for circling around the whole airport and going at it again from the opposite s--"

Hallie grabbed him by the collar. "We're going in." she told him no nonsense,
yanking him forward with her petite body sized strength.

Mike Stoker was almost eager to impart some knowledge once they were through the pristine entry portal. The boiler room, was no boiler room. "Wow, look at all the computer banks and communications relays." he remarked, giddy like a school boy in a library. "I've only heard about computers. We have one at the hospital we work for back at home."

"Oh?" asked Lopez. "What does it do?"

"It sorts names." Mike answered.

"That sounds boring." Marco said.

Mike was oblivious.
"Betcha all these systems are really sensitive.."

"Hence the lack of water or powder fire extinguishers in here." Green yawned.

Stoker reached out to touch a computer panel in admiration.

Chris's glove shot out and grabbed his wrist right through the jacket.
"DON'T. touch. anything." he hissed in warning.

Green made a face. "Chris, why are you whispering like you'll wake up somebody's whiny brat? This system goes off with a rise in heat, not noise. It's surrounded by machinery for Pete's sake."

Chris just concentrated on not touching any of the walls lined with fire suppression sensors, triggers and pipes. "Just.. hurry on up, guys.." he said through tightly gritted, worried teeth. Already his scba mask was steaming up in nervousness.
"I hate this place. Let's just find that frickin valve, shut its maw and get the h*ll out of Dodge, all right?"

Green just laughed. "Never let it be said that a Rorchek isn't a little lilly livered when the chips are--"

Chris turned on her. "Those smart chips are just quiet! So let's just keep them nice and cool....." he soothed. ".....so that creepy fire system thingie hanging over our heads, won't kick in... to fire off its bizarre payload.... that'll KILL US ALL!" he roared, spraying the inside of his scba mask with spittle.

"Geez, relax a little, Chris. Just trying to burn off a little stress between firefighters.
You know how that goes. We're relatively safe in here. No chance of burning up."
Hallie chuckled mildly.

Mike Stoker found another sign. "Hey, look at this. I found a timer. Says here,"
he said, peering at the digital display.. "That we have exactly thirty seconds to clear the room once the alarm goes off, before the agent's released into the atmosphere."

Chris almost turned purple. And he was also the one who found the valve they were all looking for first. By a mile. "Here! It's here! I- I- found it. Let's just crank this big puppy shut and make some really fast boot tracks for daylight. Yeah, that'd be really g---"

BooOOOOOM! came a nearby explosion that rocked them all off their feet.
A whole wall caved in on itself, straight down, sending in a push of punishing flameless heat deep into the high tech, non-boiler room. The emergency battery lights were killed when a wall unit hit the ground and shattered its wires from its power source, plunging the room into a complete and total darkness.

Then, the Sapphire system's alarm, a piercing howl that vibrated the very bones down to the core, went off.

"Go! Go! Go! Move! We gotta get outta here!" Rorchek hollered, pushing and shoving the others before him.

The four firefighters, scrambled, skidded, and slid as if on banana peels on the plaster dusted floor, trying for their feet.

A second explosion ripped through the area, this time it punctuated itself in flames and fire balls, just across the hall from the clean room.

Hydraulic hinges and locks started to snick and whirl their tumblers inside the door.

Marco, Stoker and Hallie found themselves shoved through the iron door when it suddenly slammed itself shut on Chris, separating them. The seal was more solid than a bank vault as the Sapphire began to work through its programming. Rorchek froze, his gloves stuck in fear to the other side of the triply reinforced, diamond filament wired window. His mask was no longer steaming. He was holding his breath.

"Chris!" Hallie shouted. "No, oh no no-no no! We have to get him out!"
Green sobbed. She tore her axe off her jacket and began to take a swing.

Thinking more clearly, Mike and Marco hauled her bodily away from a tongue of fire shooting at them from the ceiling. "We'll go get help. A K-12!" Stoker shouted at her.

"Oh, G*d. How long does he have? Did he grab a fresh air bottle along with the rest of us? I mean, really a fresh one?" she said, almost hysterical.

Lopez and Stoker turned to run along the path of their hoses and life lines that led back safely to the outside.

"His air will last him okay, if we hurry." Marco insisted, picking up his boots.

That shut Green up. She peeled her faceplate away from the now empty door window and she followed them.

Somewhere along the way, Hallie was overcome by the new heat.
Stoker and Lopez slung her arms over their shoulders and carried her out vertically.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Inside the white vapor filling room, Chris Rorchek made the first truly unselfish decision that he had ever made in his entire life.

He reached up from his place crouched protectively on the floor by the sealed door, and grabbed a hold of the fuel valve wheel. Straining harder and harder, Chris began to turn its stiff, non used painted spokes, in revolution. But the cost was faster breathing, and less and less air in his scba bottle, over time.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Outside the airport terminal, the gathered hard working foam crews saw the monster geyser of pure fire suddenly falter, and shrink massively in size until it was a dying trickle of its former shape as its liquid fuel was cut off.

A great cheer arose among those battling fire companies when they realized that HT-1B's first-in team, had been successful in their mission.

Captain Stanley got on his radio. "IC2 to any communications messenger. Call up the utilities and have them lock off their main tank at the refinery to prevent a reverse air block. This central fire's a large way to being fully contained." he said happily.

##Copy IC2.## replied one of the firemen on that job. ##Relaying lock down.##

But then Cap realized. ::Why isn't it completely out? That valve should have stopped all the AV gas flow from reaching that pipe rupture:
he thought.

A tongue of fire remained, about fifteen feet high and six wide in a steady plume.

A sense of foreboding gripped him. ::Something's wrong.:: Hank's conscience warned.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Inside the Sapphire's clean agent filled room, the gas valve was buried in pressurized fire through a new roaring rupture in its turn gasket's seal.

Chris Rorchek lay on the floor beneath it, unconscious.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Hallie and Al in red and yellow helmets, wincing at a huge explosion.

Photo: Marco and Stoker clinging to each other in scba.

Photo: Hallie and Chris, masked, talking to each other through a wall of flames.

Photo: A clean agent fire suppression system warning sign.

Photo: An ultra modern hi tech clean agent system installed in a room.

Photo: Clean agent being released by a pinhole ring gasket head.

Photo: Clean agent filling a boiler room with a white vapor.

Photo: Marco and Stoker fighting a fire at night with a hosespray.

Photo: A gas nozzle fully on fire.

Photo: A fallen firefighter in scba, close up of an unconscious face.

Subject: The Ties That Bind.
From: patti k ()
Sent: Wed 12/02/09 11:34 AM

Marco and Stoker got Green outside. Immediately,
Mike got onto his HT radio under the better reception.

"HT-1B to IC2. Firefighter trapped inside an activated clean agent room. We need immediate personnel and heavy cutting and extrication tools! Also we've a Code I down." he transmitted,
watching a pair of arff swiftly getting a limp Hallie out of her turnout gear and air bottle where she lay stretched onto the ground on her side.

##Rerouting a full company to your location. What's the nature of the suppressive?## Captain Stanley asked.

"I don't know, Cap. The automated system's named Tyco Sapphire.
And the main door has a high grade security lock on it. Tumblers, and rebar, like a vault." Stoker reported.

Hank frowned, thinking fast. ::Never heard of that before.:: he thought.
##Any other way in?## he asked, looking at the only coordinates showing up inside the airport on the GPS. Vaguely, he was already imagining the shrill squeal of a P.A.S.S. device as its dead man's switch activated from being turned horizontal. He hated that sound.

"Re-entry might be possible past a partially blown wall but it'll be through extreme heat and unknown fire." Stoker told him.

##Condition of both your victims?##

"When we left him inside, conscious, on intact scba. The second firefighter's semi conscious but breathing normally." Mike told him.

##Sending in paramedics. Watch for their response. I'm homing in on your twenty!##

Mike Stoker took a deep breath as he hefted his HT thoughtfully in his hand. He accepted the exchange of a new air bottle from support crew onto his back and a pair of fresh gloves.

Marco Lopez was on his knees near Hallie. "Hey, Senorita.
Rise and shine. You're okay." he said holding her head supported to make clear breathing room for her. An arff started Hallie on some oxygen by non-rebreather. She was panting and ringing wet.

"She awake enough to talk?" Stoker asked.

"Not yet." Marco answered, keeping tabs on her heart rate.

Stoker crouched down by them on his toes. "What do you think it is?"

"Heat. Pulse's racing. She was pretty worked up in there." Marco guessed.

"Yeah." Mike said ruefully, worried. "Good reason to be."

A small fire engine sped up and parked near their location. It was Ted with Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage.

"Hallie?" Ted shouted, hurrying forward with a stokes. He set the basket stretcher down next to her, setting a protective hand on her shoulder. "How is she?" he asked, snatching at her wrist for a pulse.

"....tired..." Green groaned, finally appearing conscious. "Ted... it's Chris who's inside. You have to hurry." her voice trailed off.

The youngest Rorchek rose to his feet and immediately interrogated Stoker and Lopez for new information about his brother while Roy began an assessment on Hallie.

Gage joined him, listening, but first he asked. "Marco, Stoker? You okay?
Looks like it was pretty hot in there."

"We'll be fine to go back in once that team gets here." Lopez said, "We're not small enough to roast right away." he quipped, trying to make Hallie laugh.

Green didn't smile, worried about the fact that she had to leave Chris behind.

Hank Stanley showed up with the extrication company. He stepped out of the dayglow yellow cab and hurried up. "Okay, this is how it's gonna go, people. Two teams. One, straight through that front steel door with everything you've got. The other, find and start digging through that wall breach that's been reported. Watch for weak ceilings! Move out!"
He got to Roy's side. "Get her to Holbrook Park. There's a free doctor there and I'm sure Joe's gonna want to know about his son. Directly from the horse's mouth."

DeSoto had a thought to consider. He spoke with Cap, aside, after finishing up a BP. "Do you think Ted'll be okay going in after his brother?"

"You know him as well as I do." Hank replied. "Somehow, I don't think anything in the world will be able to stop him."

"Not even Joe?"

"Now that's between family." Stanley said defensively, grinning.

Hallie was trying to get up. "No stokes. I'm walking!" she said.

Roy turned back to his patient. "Hey, hey, hey. Not so fast. You might pass out again. Your temperature's still kinda high."

"Instant refrigerator all around me." she said of the cold winter air.
"I won't be that way for long."

"That's besides the point, Miss Paramedic. Now you know and I know that a normal saline I.V.'s standard for black outs." DeSoto shrugged,
being diplomatic.

"I can swallow just fine. Somebody got a water bottle?"

"With that nausea? I dare ya." DeSoto challenged her, showing her how low her blood pressure still was on his notes.

Hallie Green just sighed and laid back down into the stokes. "Okay,
but I want a radio. I'm gonna listen in on everything being done for Chris word for word on live air. And no buts about it!"

"Fair enough." Roy told her, grabbing out an infusion set."Which arm?"

"The right. Better veins." she replied, suddenly growing sleepy with fatigue. "Ted says my antecubital's a d-dreammmm.."

"Night.." Roy said, waggling a few fingers at her. "Firefighter, get her on some limb leads. She's lost a lot of perspiration and might have some salt and potassium issues. I wanna keep track with an EKG on her."

The aiding arff nodded compliance, and covered her up with a thick blanket.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joanne Almstedt followed the chief like a lamb behind a ram. Soon,
she was given her most fervent wish. "Steven?" She ran toward his gurney swiftly, already wearing rubber gloves.

A paramedic at his head gave the doctor a fast report."Male,
twenty nine years of age. Ejected eighteen feet onto pavement.
Chief complaint: tenderness upper left quadrant, guarding and rigidity over the area. Circulation, motor ability and sensation intact in hands and feet. Broken left ankle with a pedal pulse. Stated moderate neck pain. No tingling or numbness. Head seems to be clear. All bleeding's been controlled. All of it minor from those facial cuts and scrapes. Consciousness level 10 on glasgow." said the man.

Joanne nodded as she felt Beck's carotid pulse, just to touch him and test his awareness. "Beck, can you hear me? It's Joanne.
Do you remember what happened to you?"

"...I think I was trying to be Peter Pan,.. for the first time in my life." he joked, gasping in his C-collar and oxygen mask, dazed.

"Without wings." Joanne frowned, moving aside the blankets over the spine board to get down to bare skin. "Where exactly does it hurt?"

"ULQ. About a nine. I'm short... of breath. Dizzy.." Steve replied,
stiffening as she probed his abdomen carefully to feel for structures.

"Pressure?" Almstedt requested.

"One forty two, systolic." replied the attending paramedic.

"He has a mild hypertension history." she said.
"Ringers?" Joanne asked of the IV tucked under Beck's shoulder.

"Yeah, suspected internal injuries right off." replied the medic.

"You were right." she told him. Looking down, she addressed Steve once more."Beck, listen to me. It's not the spleen. I'm concerned about part of your large intestines, stomach or bowel perhaps. But first, there's something sharp, maybe a broken rib, that's very near your--"

"Not the heart.." he frowned, scared.

She nodded."It sits just above the point where you say that you are hurting the most." Joanne told him. "But the spreads between your QRS intervals aren't serious yet. You're in sinus tach with only slight elevations. Might not be tamponade at all. But I'm authorizing an immediate exploratory once I get you fast flown into Stony Brook. Try not to move or breathe in very deeply."

"But.."

"Shhh.." she said, placing a hand on his oxygen mask. "Rest. I'm giving you MS for relief. Concentrate on slowing your breathing rate."

Beck's eyes fluttered shut as he panted in pain and stress.

Joanne looked up. "Intubate him RSI if he goes out. No mast trousers.
If his pericardium is damaged, I don't want him to bleed out around his heart any faster. Keep tabs on his BP, watch for different readings in both arms."

"Yes, ma'am."

Joanne looked up as Roy arrived with Hallie in her stokes with another ambulance crew on a wheeled gurney. Almstedt stood up to intercede, but Roy shook his head. "Yellow tag." he said.

Joanne nodded and then fulfilled her own promise to stay by Steve's side until Morgan Wainwright took him away with his attending paramedic.

Joe Rorchek hurried from a canteen where he had snatched a quick coffee to keep with him, high in sugar, for nourishment, when he saw Green go by.

Roy braced himself for the coming storm.

"Chief, It's Chris. He's stuck in the clean agent room behind ticketting. It went off." Green said, sitting up with the help of Al Martelli who had just noticed her arrival. "Don't worry, he's awake on bottled air."

Joe, to his credit, didn't panic like a father. "Any fire?"

"Damage from an explosion that didn't injure him." Hallie shared.
"Enough to collapse a wall."

"Ted's there?"

"Yes. He's probably already going in after him."

"Okay, how are you?"

"Just overheated. I did too much again, sir." Hallie admitted.

"Don't you worry about that. This night has loomed far larger than all of us. Thanks about news on Chris.." he said numbly. "Roy, stay with Green only as long as you need to."

"Yes, sir." DeSoto replied.

"Then get back to the terminal. I want every man possible working on getting my son out." the chief ordered.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ted Rorchek, Johnny Gage, Marco Lopez, Mike Stoker and half a dozen others were digging frantically in the service hall behind ticketting.
They had located the pile of debris that marked where the wall had collapsed into the clean room, but they found that a subsequent roof fall had completely blocked up the large hole.

Other fire crews were working on ferociously attacking the small fires still remaining after the gas pocket explosions that had trapped Chris, from earlier on.

Chet Kelly was there, with a search probe. "I can't hear any breathing.
But that's not saying a lot. Sounds like there's a high pressure gas hissing actively in there along with a P.A.S.S. alarm."

"Hearing any flames?" Cap asked.

"No, Cap. Seems that agent stuff has done its work top notch." Chet told him.

"Keep listening." Hank said softly, disturbed.

Chet crouched once more on top of the rubble and resnugged his earphones back over his ear around his helmet.

Audibly, Chris's emergency P.A.S.S. device was still shrieking without cease.
It made the adrenalin in all the firefighters surge.

Ted Rorchek was side by side with Mike Stoker at the door, hefting up a growling K-12 that was slowing making a dent in the metal, like a hot knife through rice paper. "Okay, I think it's working.." Ted panted with effort. "Rags, are you sure you still can't see anything?"

"No, man. That fog sh*t's too thick and hanging on the floor. But we know he's in trouble if we're hearing a shrieker." replied the big firefighter through his faceplate.

"He might be lying down to conserve his air." Ted hoped.

"Key word: might." Harris grunted, working at the hinges with a straining jaws. His visor was flecked with metal bits.

Back at Holbrook Park Triage, Hallie Green had an idea. Still wearing her helmet for warmth, she picked up her radio and started transmitting.
"HT1-B to C. Rorchek. Do you read me?" she hailed. *Spap*

There was no reply on Chris's band.

Ted Rorchek immediately glommed onto the brilliant idea.
##Chris, can you copy us? Hit your squelch if you can reach it, bro.
I wanna hear your voice right now.##

Joe Rorchek, too, attempted contact. ##Son, we're coming to get you.
Save your air by holding very still. Everybody's breaking down the doors just to see you.##

Only silence greeted them.

----------------------------------------------------

Photo: Joe, Ted and Al all hovering over a wounded Hallie.

Photo: Joe Rorchek looking frightened by a ladder.

Photo: Hallie wearing a red and yellow helmet, on HT.

Photo: An HT radio abandoned in a circle of flames.

Photo: Roy DeSoto, sooty, at night in close up.

Photo: Silver suited Hazmat firefighters tackling a blaze with foam.

Photo: Joanne crouched by an injured Steven Beck on a backboard.

Photo: Steven Beck closeup, immobilized and injured on O2.

Photo: Chet Kelly searching rubble with a sound probe.

Subject: Gambit... From: patti k ()
Sent: Thurs 12/03/09 03:34 AM Hallie opened her eyes to a new person seated over her.

It was a man in a winter parka, wrapped tightly against the cold,
and yet, his skin held as dark a tan as she had seen in months.

"*cough* Did I black out again?" Green asked, disoriented at the change from Roy to a new face.

"For a while. But that's only part of the reason why I'm here."

"Who are you?" she croaked.

"I'm Dr. Brackett, one of Station 51's ilk you might say. They're evacuating the medical center as we speak. There's a large crack forming underneath the foundation. They're worried about cave-ins due to the weight of the adjoining parking garage." he said, adjusting the flow of her I.V. bag to wide open.

"So when am I through?" she asked, all of her anxiety returning.

"When I say so." Kel said. "And not a minute before. I know about the personal situation you have going on."

Hallie got mad. "That's one of my coworkers in trouble back there!"

Brackett just looked at her while he examined her eyes with a penlight.
"Uh, huh. And all of my patients, also in trouble, are all right here, including you. Your pressure's dropped."

"That's because I'm hungry. Add some sugar to my ball and chain and I promise I'll make you smile enough to do a jig!" she snapped, tugging on her I.V. line hard enough to make the pole rock.

He steadied it back onto its wheels and just quirked his lips. "It's already ordered. Here's a step into the right direction. If you stay put, I'm making you officially a green tag." he shared, getting up to make a few notations to the evacuation order on Hallie's chart. Then he left for another stokes containing his next patient. None of them, Green could see, held a firefighter.

And the radio that she had so coveted, was gone.

Whispering, Green sighed in frustration. "No, I'm all yellow..." she sobbed,
not meaning her triage priority. "...for not sneaking right back into that d*mned fire... to try and save him."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ted Rorchek raced back to where his dad was standing near the fire secured access to ticketting. "Dad, it's still taking everything we got just to make a dent in that door. Those hinges just aren't cutting through fast enough. We're running out of time!"

"Ted, if I had a faster solution other than brute force, I'd offer one."

"Chief." Gage said, stepping forward from where he was prepping a new air bottle for one of the arff working hard to breach the obstacles in the way of reaching Chris Rorchek.
Chief Joe stopped looking at the blueprint he was studying of their problem. "I'm listening."

"Well, sir. How about us trying to break into that clean room from the roof? You see, my pal Chet Kelly here and I were thinking about it and.. Well, just exactly how many rooms do you know of that're built absolutely solid stainless steel including the ceiling?"

Joe blinked in surprise. "Practically none that isn't a strong vault in itself."

"My point exactly. An airport's not Fort Knox. I can't imagine that the designers even started to think that way. No money's stored in that room, just some high tech machinery." Johnny reasoned.

Chet added more. "With that part of the roof of the terminal already gone, sir, we could try rappeling down from the parking ramp and then crawling in that way to Chris through the infrastructure that has already been exposed."

Rorchek slammed down the antennae of his radio.
"Go! I want every man making that idea workable! Hank, I'll send over another aerial to provide a water shield to protect your two paramedics from the heat." Chief Rorchek told him. "They have more experience high angle than my men do."

"They're yours." Cap said.

Roy nodded his head as he leaned into Johnny. "Have we ever tried rope work wearing scba?"

"Nope, but there's always a first time. That fireman can't wait." Gage replied, all business. "And I'm never one to shirk a new experiment."

They flew into action.

-
Two minutes later, Captain Stanley faced their launch-off challenge, the parking ramp. "Okay, nobody goes inside without a hose and prybar team back up. Cracked concrete slabs can still pretty much tip over with barely any weight placed on them. Especially when they've got a fire that size burning underneath causing some buckling. Tie on lifelines and make yourselves tight enough harness wise to withstand a fall."

"Go in through the subterranean entrance?" Roy asked.

"Yeah. At least we know that way was still good five minutes ago."
Hank replied.

"Who told you that?" Johnny asked.

"The last patient who was evacuated from the med center." Cap shared.

"Don't you ever hate being all seeing and all knowing, Cap?" Chet quipped, grinning as he fastened ropes to Roy and Johnny's life belts, trying to lighten the high stress they were all feeling.

"Never, Chet. The second I don't know something about a fire..." Cap choked up, thinking about all the deaths they had seen happen right before their eyes the night before. Hank didn't finish the sentence.

Roy and Johnny just glared at Chet.

Kelly apologized immediately. "Sorry, guys." he said, pointing a gloved apologetic finger at his mouth. "I was only trying to laugh it up."

Hank was appreciative. "You meant well. Be funny later." he said looking at his watch. "Maybe then we'll be able to laugh at something."

The fire company guarding the barricaded off parking ramp access immediately admitted Roy and Johnny and Cap. They hurried through the lower level, where a communications desk from inside had been hastily shoved outside. The safety there was utilizing a land line phone, to get around the dead spots in radio transmissions inside the ramp.

Once they reached the top, Roy asked. "Cap? Where should we anchor from? There are no antennae or anything up here."

"We'll use this right here." said Cap. "It's a layover pulley installed for a window washer's scaffolding." He said, patting the red winch looking hook nestled over the roof edging wall. "I'll stay with you up here until you get inside." Hank said, waving over a few firefighters to man Roy and Johnny's safety lines. Then he hefted up his HT. "IC2 to HTs'
Lopez and Kelly. See if you can find access over the clean room from inside the terminal as a backup. Tear down the ceiling if you have to, near the entry team, to climb up."

##10-4, IC2.## they replied in double.

Stoker ran up to meet Cap on the roof of the ramp with news.
"Cap, looks like the way in through the collapsed wall isn't going to work. As fast as we dig out, more debris keeps filling in."

"That's all right. We have Plan C in the works." Hank told Mike.

"What's Plan C?"

"That." Cap said, pointing.

Mike looked and saw the aerial angle being worked.
"Oh, nice." he grinned happily.

Another team of firefighters accepted a rope gun toss from the ramp and got busy securing the other end of the rappelling anchor line to a stable structure on top of the control tower. Then, with the new line dangling in the sunlight in a great sweeping arch over the fire burned hole left by the fuel fire, things were ready.

Soon, DeSoto and Gage were dangling in mid air over the mostly destroyed airport. The only signs of life were the brilliant reds and yellows of the fire crews and their vehicles rushing about their business below.

"Ah, sad looking sight.." Gage hollered back at Roy and he slid along their rope as he accelerated hands over head down to their access goal.

"Not for long. People are resourceful. They'll build again." DeSoto said sliding after him, just as fast.

Both paramedics found themselves counting their breaths and remembering exactly how many could be taken using a self contained air bottle before it ran out.

Just before they sagged down for a landing near the fire hole, they put on their faceplates and masks.

"Okay, let's go." DeSoto said. He froze their descent winch right over the gap along the horizonal rope, to use as a vertical tether point. "We're secure."

Then, they were inside the building.

"Chet was right, the infrastructure crawl spaces between the ceiling tile suspension frames and the roof is doable." Johnny celebrated. "And there's the top of the clean room over there." he said, aiming a flashlight through the heavy smoke into the murk. "I recognize those red painted pipes. They belong to that funky Tyco system thing. I had a look at them through the doorway."

"Just so that fire cooperates with us and decides to behave a little."
Roy said.

"I don't see why not. It's been mostly strangled out by that valve."

"Have you ever heard of Mount Vesuvius and the eruption of Pompeii?
It didn't blow again until there was enough pressure to push out the blockage."
DeSoto mused.

Gage frowned at that image. "Try and think positive. Usually, you're the one telling me that."

When they were over the room, a great rumbling began.

Johnny paled through his mask. "That's not a good sound." he said,
whirling around to look behind them.

Kelly, near Lopez, radioed a warning to Gage and DeSoto. "Ground rupture. Duck and cover!"

Roy and Johnny instantly flattened onto their stomachs over a firm concrete girder.

-
Al Martelli looked up from the foam truck engineering panel he was manning as a stand in for a cool down break. "Oh, crap." Then he started shouting.
"Guys! Doubling your output right now!" he hollered, quickly spinning dials and releasing valves.

Out in the airfield by the great big gaping hole the ruptured fuel line had made in the tarmack, a new pool of fire emerged. Its energy and quick temperature change buckling the landscape and the crack running to the medical center and parking garage widened in one swift surge.

The safety at the desk in the ramp, bailed and dove out of harm's way as the first floor of the parking garage disappeared into the ground.

Nearby, Joe Rorchek radioed out instantly. "IC1 to IC2. You and your man okay up there?"

Cap waved as well as transmitting. "We're fine. What was that?
There's a lot of dust rising up around us." he said, rolling nimbly to his feet. He helped Stoker up as well with a firm glove.

"First floor of the ramp collapsed. Looks like the fuel pressure's building up again because it's still burning. The only way down for you is by rappelling along 51's line back over to the control tower.##

"Same escape plan idea as mine." Hank agreed. "We'll get going out of here right now by that route."

-
Al Martelli had his hands full. "Ready for more foam?! Thumb up?!" he shouted to the silver suited arff on his team. He knew he had to provide and provide amply so personnel wouldn't fry.

"We're anchored. Feed the line again!" they hollered and signalled back. As one, the trio of fighters attacked the fiery new split in the earth and fought it to knockdown black all the way to the source it came.

Suddenly a fireman inside the building, only wearing standard turnout gear and scba was enveloped in flames. He didn't scream. He reacted,
spinning about with his water hose spraying strongly in a protective flower. He umbrelled himself underneath a circle veil of water until the foam crew could get him out of the hot spot.

The head foam arff shouted. "Are you hurt?"

"No, I'm fine. Wasn't on me long enough." replied the firefighter. Behind him, the hose he had used and then dropped when the opportunity presented itself, burst open in the fire, curling brown and burning when its engineer terminated its water source. "Thanks for the cover. Looks like my angle's all dried up."

"Join us. We're going in to make an exit for the trapped Code I."
the foam captain invited.

"I'm all over that." said the company man, running to grab a silver suit.

-
Roy and Johnny began to shimmey on their bellies, fast,
seeking a soft spot over the clean room when the shaking stopped.

DeSoto replied back to the others outside. "We're okay! We're moving in!" he said, pulling out a short axe.

"Here?" Gage asked, clearing away just enough soot to read the guide markings along the rafters to avoid gas lines and hot water pipes. He tapped on the hollow roof's shell.

"Yeah, right there!" Roy agreed and started swinging the blade of his hand tool down with all of his strength.

Johnny shouted as soon as a man sized hole was visible.
"Chris! Chris! Can you hear me? Bang on something!"

But they only heard the loud howl of Chris's P.A.S.S. device.

Quickly, Roy lowered Johnny down onto the floor by the arms.

As soon as his feet touched the gritty floor Johnny read the sensor disk on his jacket. "Air's still not breathable in here. No oxygen! Even with our new hole!"

"Do you see him?" Roy shouted down.

"Not yet. I'm going to let the others in to help us out!" he replied.
"That agent gas is still waist high in here."

Moving forward carefully, sweeping ahead of himself with a booted foot for a feel of Chris's body underneath the white vapor,
Johnny made his way to the main steel door. Regular tugging didn't budge it, so he backtracked to the Sapphire unit's battery power source, and severed its wires with his axe. With a pop of sparks, the digital display showing gas activation, died out and went blank.

Gage tugged the door open with relish when the locks released and in flooded Chet and Marco, already pushing back from the other side.

Another firefighter team with a pair of PPEs set them up and began evacuating the dessicant from the room. Soon, the fans had sucked out all the vapor from the floor level.

They found Chris by seeing just his booted feet, sticking out from under a pile of tumbled ductwork and a storage tank that had fallen down during the new rupture fire.

"Is he breathing?" Chet asked, scrambling near the debris to help dig. The firefighter wasn't moving.

"I don't know. He's mostly buried. Chris!" Roy shouted. On his knees, he reached up along a sweat dampened leg to feel for a femoral pulse. But the way was blocked by a wall of metal.

Gage shouted into his radio. "We need a Hurst tool ASAP!"

There was no immediate reply.

"I'll get it." said Marco, running. "The others are probably tied up with all that burn going on outside."

The fan crew spoke up suddenly. "Okay, we're completely ventilated out. Air's testing safe to breathe. Plenty of oxygen."

Roy ripped off his faceplate gratefully and turned to Kelly. "Chet, see if you find a way to his face and give him some air anyway you can. Johnny and I have to try for that fuel valve one more time as a next priority!"

Gasping in the thin air, Gage and Roy made their way over to the valve that had started flaming again when the clean agent disappeared.

A foam team was desperately trying to cool it down.
Roy and Johnny waved at them. "Okay, we're going in turn it!" he warned.

They nodded.

DeSoto and Gage got on their stomachs and slowly crawled to the cooler side of the valve pipe assembly, with a long pry bar.

Reaching up around the tongue of fire erupting from the torn metal gasket, they threaded the tool in between the spokes of the valve wheel. Then they carefully put their shoulders into it full strength.

The foam lubricated valve rotated, groaning under the heat/cool stresses it was enduring. Yelling, Roy and Johnny pulled even harder on the ends of the bar they were using as leverage.

But a building rumble made them abandon the control quickly and they dropped the tool to the floor to save themselves.

-
Outside, Joe Rorchek broke off from the commands he was giving via HT to his working fire crews when another explosion sinuated up from the original hole in the ground. "D*mn it! She just won't stay down!" he spat to himself, worried for his missing son.

He was still pacing as he watched his orders carried out when a man rushed up to him. "The garage is burning, sir. Over there!"

"We know that. It just started. Just who the h*ll are you? You should have been evacuated from this air field hours ago."

"Uh, sir, I'm the bus driver. I was helping out your fire guys on the ham radio.." he prompted. "I have a pass." he said, waving his FD authorization that was hanging around his neck. "But I'm not being a fire buff just because I can. Listen to me, Chief, I think there are people still up there."

"Yes, we have two firefighters who're going to rappel out of danger from up there as soon as they harness up."

The bus driver was insistent. "No, I mean, two other people. A man and a little girl."

Joe's forehead furrowed. "Where did you last see them?"

"On the top level. They were heading for the stairwell from a car last I saw. I guess they were trying to hide there or something from all the explosions."

Rorchek lifted the HT to his mouth. "IC1 to IC2. Belay! Belay your evac! There's been a report of two civilians present in the ramp.
Confirmed by an authorized. I want you to find them and get them out of there. But watch yourselves. The lower level is on fire. Just started. It's gonna take me a bit to get resources out to you."

##IC2 to IC1, loud and clear.## said Hank.

Very soon, Stoker and Stanley found them. They were still on the roof, hard to spot because of all the tall SUVS and vans parked in the ramp.

"I tried to get down. Really I tried." said the little girl as Mike Stoker picked her up protectively. "But grandpa's really scared. I know that even though he can't talk any more."

Hank studied the old man's face for soot or injuries but there were none.
But he saw the unmistakable signs in him of a vulnerable adult created by the effects of a mild stroke that had happened long ago, in the wrong places.

"Honey? How old are you? Where's your mom and dad? Aren't they here to take care of you and your grandpa?" Cap asked her, brushing away hair from her frightened eyes.

"I'm eleven. They were supposed to meet us at the car last night. But they never got here." she said, beginning to cry.

"Okay." Hank said, meeting Mike's eyes significantly. "Now Mike and I are fire fighters from the airport fire station. And we're going to bring you someplace else where we can try to find your parents, okay? How does that sound?"

"All right, I guess." she sniffed.

"All right. Now come on over here to this wall. We're going to get some lifebelts and new ropes and then we're going to go for a little ride. Would you like that?" Cap asked her.

"I don't know. But if you want grandpa to follow you. You're going to have to take his hand." she said.

"Like this?" Hank asked, taking the old man's gently and meeting his eyes,
giving him a follow me gesture.

"Yes. He'll go. Just smile at him." she explained, shivering bravely.

Once they were there, Cap had Stoker sit the man down on a bumper of a nearby car. Then he broke open a window of an airport hotel supply van with his helmet to borrow some blankets to help keep their new victims warmer in the cold.
Stoker got on his radio. "HT-51 Ramp to the control tower crew."

##Go ahead, 51.## they replied, still watching from their position on the other side of the rappelling anchor.

"Send over a stokes and two life belts and ropes. We're going to get two uninjured people, one by one, from our location over to you." Mike explained.

##10-4, Sending over a guided basket with gear, right now.##

-
Hallie Green got out of the fire engine she had hitched a ride with to get back to the airport. Her head was helmetless, but nonetheless, she got out of the truck, rechecking the bandage she had wrapped over the place where she had yanked out her I.V. She timidly made her way over to Joe Rorchek's location.

"Hallie." he said surprised. "How are you feeling? Did they release you? There's no news yet." he said quickly, distracted as he watched Stoker and Hank's rescue in progress.

"No, I released myself. That Cali doc left me a back door as long as I finished my I.V. off completely. He made me a green tag even though I wasn't ready for it."

"Left you permission to walk on your own two legs." Rorchek half smiled in admiration for the man he had never seen. "He knew the rest of us would do the necessary bedside sitting for him."

"Don't worry, Chief. I left all my gear at home. I just wanted to be here." she sighed, coughing.

"Sit down." Joe told her, inviting her to park on a pack of airbottles cushioned with a spare overcoat. "Glad you came. Now the both of us can worry together." he frowned.

"Make that three, firefighters." said a female voice.
It was Joanne Almstedt. "I heard there was a possible red tag on the way."

"Yeah, my son, Chris. He's still inside." admitted Joe.

Joanne looked up, noticing the rope line strung between the parking ramp and the blackened quiet control tower. "What's going on over there?"

"An aerial rescue. Don't worry, just two stragglers. Nobody's hurt."
Rorchek told her.

"Not yet." Joanne surmised. "Looks dangerous." she said with some trepidation.

"Piece of cake." said Hallie, confident, watching with her eyes shielded from the sun.

Joe's IC band shuddered into life. ##We've found him!## reported Chet to the outside.

"Is he alive?" Joe asked eagerly, toggling his HT.

##We haven't been able to reach a checkable pulse point. He's under a debris pile.## Kelly shared.

Joe startled, almost wanting to move forward towards the building, but then he stopped himself.

##But the room's now breathable, sir.##

"Thank you for that update, fireman. Keep me posted." he said unevenly.

##I'll come out to you with the gas sniffer report!## he said,
wanting to prove to a father that what he was saying was the truth.

Joe didn't reply back when his voice choked up.

Joanne Almstedt reached for his arm in sympathy and Joe, without looking at her, placed his glove over hers in stiff gratitude.

Beside him, Hallie Green suddenly froze in place. "Oh,ohoh.."
she minced. "Chief, look at that!" She said pointing.

On the roof of the parking ramp, smoke was showing from a car.
It was on fire and a tendril of burning gas was slowly trickling down the side of the ramp to the ground below as it flowed downhill.

Joe immediately got on the handy talkie. "IC1 to IC2. To your two o'clock! An incendiary flow's headed in your direction!"

Hank and Stoker whirled. They saw the danger and quickly moved the aerial line's pulley assembly and both their victims to a safer corner of the ramp. ##Change noted!## Hank replied.

Joe ansed. "There's isn't going to be enough time to stokes ferry everybody over to the tower. Another car is going to catch and possibly explode, setting off chain reactions in other cars. Not enough time to raise any kind of a ladder.." he said, speaking mostly to himself. Then he made a snap decision and broadcast a command over the radio. "Companies 9, 12. Emergency! Pull out a lifenet and bring it to 51's location at the north side and east side ramp corner. We're bailing two firefighters and two civilians, a.s.a.p.!"

Even as he spoke another car exploded on top of the garage ramp,
making the little girl scream. It was very audible to the firefighters below and its effect was electric. They flew in even faster to help.

Joe added more. "Ladder 15, Ladder 6, Chopper 10. Aerial attack those new ramp fires! Stay upwind!"

Swiftly, the tan canvas net with the red bullseye, was ready, ringed by a dozen firefighters holding it at the ready.

Cap leaned into the terrified little girl in his grasp, talking fast. "Pretend this is gym class. You're going to jump, and the men down there are going to catch you."

"...no..." she said, pressing away from the wall.

"You're going to have to, honey." he said, watching Mike desperately keep the on fire liquid river from reaching them with a charged ramp fire hose on wide open. "Just close your eyes. It'll feel like a trampoline, I promise. But without the bounce."

"Better hurry, Cap! I can't hold this stuff off much longer!" Stoker hollered.

Still the little girl buried herself into Cap's smoky jacket.
Cap was still trying to break the girl's grip gently when a sudden sight made both of them look up and stop the struggle.

Grandpa was climbing up onto the wall nimbly, a beatific smile on his face. He raised his arms in a swan's dive pose and then looked back at his grand daughter excitedly. Then he just shrugged a very obvious oh, well,.. and turned away.

"Head's up!" Mike shouted into his HT when the old man neatly tipped off the building into a perfect butt first and back faced down push off.

He landed exactly on target over the red spot, but the excitement made him faint dead away and suddenly his smile for the girl's benefit, faded away.

"Nothing to it..." Hank told the child, with an amazed gasp. "See? Grandpa did it, and he got to go first." Then he turned around, still holding the girl in his arms. "Mike, I'm going next just as soon as they clear the net." he said, watching those down below check for a carotid and swiftly move the old man off to a place on the ground in a careful protective spine carry.

"But.."

"Mike, I'm going to show her again how much fun this is." Hank told him,
an artificial smile locked onto his lips. "So she can play, too."

"Oh, okay, Cap. Sounds like a really nice game. I'll play those rules."
he said meekly.

Mike set down the hose, still turned on, nestled neatly in grandpa's blanket so that it continued to push away the burning gas flow still spreading bigger and bigger and closer and closer, behind them.

Hank passed off the trembling girl to Stoker and then he handed the girl his HT. "You give a try with this first. Can you hit that red spot? Go ahead.
Go toss it down. If you make it, you get five points." he said playfully, in a farce.

Calming down just a little, the still scared girl dropped it. The radio hit dead center.

"Bingo!" Cap said. Then he climbed onto the wall and waved once.
"Now follow me.." And he fell backwards two stories, and down into the net where his momentum was stopped by many strong arms.

The little girl's mouth flopped open into a shocked but delighted smile.
"Can I do that?" she asked Mike.

Stoker was still keeping an eye on the fire. "Sure.." he said, nervously.

Hank rolled off the net and swiftly took a place at its rim as a holder. He took back his radio from a firefighter and called up. ##Your turn.## he said as they raised the catch net back to chin level with all eyes on the sky.

But suddenly, there was no more time. Three cars twenty feet away suddenly exploded into a huge fireballs, sending shrapnel flying in all directions. Mike felt a sharp impact on his back. "Two going down!" he shouted, quickly leaping over the edge with the little girl still held tightly in his arms. He nestled her head under his chin as they fell. "Hang on, honey. I got you." And then he held his breath.

They struck.

-
Mike came to on his side, with pain radiating between his shoulder blades.

A panting voice was right next to his ear. "Hold still. You've got a big cut right here." Hank said, holding pressure against a wound with his gloves. "But it looks like your air bottle deflected whatever it was that sliced your skin. It's shallow."

Stoker struggled to catch his breath. "Sorry,... about the extra weight."

"She was nothing at all. You chose right." Stanley said. "Hold still and let me get all this bleeding packed off before you try to get up."

"How's the girl?"

"Fine. A few nicks and bruises about the face but uh, Chet's taking care of that.
You know how good he is with kids."

"And Grandpa?"

"A little amnesiac. But that's only because he checked out a little early on the way down. Our lady doc's taking a good look at him, now that he's back awake and looking up a storm at all of us."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The distant explosions in the main fuel fire ended and as they eased off into a new phase of quiet consumption,
Roy and Johnny lifted their heads to once again tackle the AV gas valve.

"Ready?" Gage asked DeSoto.

"More than ready. Let's end this once and for all. That fire's had enough time to ruin the neighborhood. " Roy told him.

Again the foam team smothered them with protection as they advanced with the pry bar to turn the burning wheel.

The third time was a charm, when one final spurt of lurid flame around the violated gasket, sputtered out.

Roy and Johnny collapsed on the iron tool, using its support to hold themselves up in tremendous relief.

As if in benedication, all of their radios sprang into glorious, joyous life. ##The main fire's out. No sign of renewed blazing anywhere that we can see inside the main terminal. Good job, men. Good job!## Joe congratulated.

51's paramedics accepted the help back onto their weary feet from their colleagues on the foam team. They got a few pats on the back for risking their necks so close to the red hot metal.

The overheated prybar clanked back onto the foam moist concrete floor as it was abandoned in favor of saving an individual life again.

Chris's.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Brackett coming here?" Mike winced as Cap began to cut away his jacket. He decided to lay his face back down onto the net to rest a while with his eyes closed.

"Yeah, we don't know whether or not Grandpa has a seizure history or not with that old stroke of his." Stanley answered, then his voice changed. "Whoa."

"What?" Stoker asked quickly.

"I hope it's not bad news. Roy and Johnny are back out here a little early."

Mike cracked an eye open, but his eyes were too blurry with fatigue to focus much. "I'd go find out." he suggested.

"Great idea. I'll be back to autograph your bandages." Hank said, patting his shoulder amicably.

"Oh, ha ha." Mike groaned as another firefighter took Cap's place as a first aider.

Photo: Hallie Green, crying by a fire engine.

Photo: Dr. Brackett in a winter parka.

Photo: Silver suited airport rescue firefighters foaming a fire.

Photo: Gage crawling under a fuel valve leak amid foam.

Photo: Cap and Stoker lowering a steel stokes basket at you.

Photo: Firefighters holding a lifenet, a long way down.

Photo: Mike Stoker lying wounded, on an EKG monitor, eyes closed.

Subject: Epilogue Sent: Thurs 12/03/09 23:34 PM From: patti k ()

Dr. Joanne Almstedt looked up as she held Grandpa onto his side while he got sick. The footsteps she had heard approaching belonged to Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto.

"Any word on that firefighter yet in the clean room?" she asked as she handed Grandpa a cloth towel to use to wipe his mouth.

"We're still digging him out. It's slow going. But, we think he's alive and breathing. We get a really pink capillary refill back into the skin of his feet when we pinch them. We came out here to find out whether or not that clean agent's poisonous when inhaled." Johnny said.

"I can sure find out." she said.

"We tried to reach you, but you didn't answer your radio."
DeSoto explained.

Joanne was embarrassed enough to blush. She could still see it sitting forty feet away on the hood of Joe Rorchek's battalion car. "Oops, I got kind of busy. This gentleman and his charming princess of a sidekick decided to try a Superman act off a burning garage ramp."

"Need help packaging them?" Gage asked.

"Naw, we've plenty of help. Dr. Brackett's on the way to help me figure out this man's neurology and cardiologic signs before we let him back up onto his feet. He can't tell us if this nausea's MI related or simply due a post reaction to his agrophobia." she smiled.

Nearby, Hank gaped. "He's got a fear of heights?"

She nodded. "His granddaughter told me about it."

"Sure as h*ll could have fooled me up there. He was pure Evel Knievel during his whole swan dive stunt. Didn't shake a bit."

"That was an act. To save her. They're very devoted to each other." Dr. Almstedt grinned.

"How's Chris Rorchek?" Hank asked Roy and Johnny.

"Thumbs up, Cap. First hurdle done. He's hanging in there.
Now all we have to do is find out whether or not he earns a week's time off, or a year."

"That tangled up, huh?"

"No thanks to the fire." Roy said.

Then she noticed a motion.
"Ah, Dr. Brackett. Can you take over here? This case is a syncopal episode following a life net fall. I have to find out a bit of crucial information for your two paramedics."

"Be glad to." Brackett said. Kel noticed Hallie hanging back in the wings, and gave her a conspiratory wink. "Looks like everybody out here's gonna be okay. That firefighter inside is going to be one of our last patients, doctor." he said to Joanne.

"Really?" she asked.

"Yep. The other team of doctors finally arrived from New Jersey."
Brackett said.

"What took them so long?" Almstedt wondered.

"Snow plows. They did a lousy job of clearing the roads. They had to keep stopping at every roadside accident to help out until the fire department paramedics got there, all night long."

"Must have been a lot of them." Cap said.

"There were. Hundreds in fact, because of the odd early snowstorm. But this airport suffered the worst weather related incident, by far." Kel said as he studied Grandpa's EKG reading. "Joanne. He's a little bradycardic. But that's probably from the cold. I'm not seeing much in the way of abnormalities at all. Now l'll see if I can peg a good normal baseline mentation wise."

"Thanks. I'll be right back." she said. "Fellas. Let's go talk to Joe about that reagent of yours. If anyone knows what that chemical actually was, it's gonna be him." she said, rising to her feet. She handed Kel Grandpa's already started I.V. bag, which he took quickly, to read the label to see what course of treatment she had already decided to do.

Chief Rorchek's eyes couldn't hide the flash of anxiety in them when he saw who it was that sought him out. "Boys, about Chris?" he began.

Roy set him at ease. "Sir, he's alive. And his pressure's not that far off normal as far as we can tell. His capillary refill's around two seconds. He's not in bad shock."

Joe sighed in tremendous relief, folding his arms across his chest as he let go of his tight fingers hold on his HT. "Injuries?" he asked quickly.

"Too soon to tell. His location has a lot of tricky debris piles. We don't want to make things worse by causing any settling."

"That's fine, that's good." Joe said happily. "Don't rush a single step."
Then his emotions got the best of him and he started tearing up as killer stress just melted away. "Thanks, boys." he sniffed.

Roy and Johnny just smiled respectfully, giving him a little privacy by not staring.

"Think I'll ....take a break and go call my wife and tell her the good news.
the chief said. "Hank, you're in charge."

"Gladly, sir." Stanley nodded.

John was still smiling, looking around at a landscape that was blissfully just black and white without the orange of flame when he spied Mike Stoker getting wheeled by on a stretcher. "Mike?" he blurted, his grin falling away.

Hank stopped Johnny's forward rush with a hand on Gage's chest. "Let him sleep. He's fine."

Roy asked. "What happened?"

"He saved a little girl." Stanley beamed. "But I'll let him tell that tale later."

"And all that blood?" Gage asked, getting mad that Cap was ordering him away from a wounded friend.

"Just some needed stitches. No surgery." Hank said. "Now go paramedic our top priority. Chris Rorchek needs the two of you more than he does."

Reluctantly, not taking their eyes off of their I.V. trailing engineer, Roy and Johnny mainly groped for a new set of air bottles by feel alone before they obeyed the order to jog back inside.

The interior was very black and growing wet from cold air condensation as they made their way back to the activity in the clean room. The lieutenant in charge of rescue there told them to come back in five minutes to treat their victim, when an arm would be freed, and to stop bugging them during an operation.

Properly chided, DeSoto and Gage listened to a nagging curiosity about the horror that had nearly killed them all. So they crawled and slid, and crouch stepped over to the massive crater where the fuel fire rupture began. The earth there was still steaming, hot and dry. But the rust and black stained dirt didn't burn their boot soles as they stepped around the gas utilities men quickly sawing off and capping the ragged ends of the aviation fuel pipeline.

Just then, a fire department light tower snicked on overhead and illuminated the lunar like landscape. Roy and Johnny just gaped. The hole they were standing in was about the size of a parking lot and the gas men, were like ants inside the massive blast funnel the explosions had left behind.

Humbled, they quickly returned back to the rescue scene.

-
An arm never looked so good to Johnny as Chris's did when the arff stepped aside to let them in. "Roy?"

"Here." said DeSoto, tossing him an I.V. infusion kit. "I'll get a BP next. I can feel a brachial pulse."

Gage sighed and felt like he had dodged a bullet. "Then his profusion's still real good."

"Looks like it. And nobody's seen any blood pools forming underneath him. That's a nice sign of things to come. Glad of it." DeSoto replied. Then he started blinking as he tore off strips of I.V.
tape. "Speaking of our happiness, we forgot something in all the excitement."

"What?" Gage said, kind of grumpy at being distracted from his work of reaching around sharp pieces of metal and incumbering pipework to find a listening spot for his sound probe an arff had lent him so he could do better than just guess at a respiration rate.

"We forgot to get that clean agent gas information."

"Oh." Gage said, still concentrating. "Chet can get that. Can't you, Chet?"

"Sure." he said, lifting a radio to his lips. "HT-51-A clean room to IC1."

##Go ahead, HT-51.## Rorchek said with energy, still buoyed by his recent news.

"What's the stuff Chris got into?"

##That? Oh, Joanne asked about it for you. It's 3M Novec 1230. It's an inert carbon-based chemical that's absolutely safe for property, people, and the environment. It'll only exist outside those pressurized tanks for five days. Then it decays to just nitrogen and oxygen.##

"Huh. To regular air?" Marco mused. "Boy, do I gotta read about this stuff."

But Johnny wasn't paying Lopez any attention. "Kelly, would you jus--!"
Gage snatched away the radio from Kelly in irritation. "...ask the right questions?!"
he said with clenched teeth.

"I'm not a paramedic." Chet shrugged, not offended.

Roy just smiled and dialed up the normal saline solution I.V., amused and staying out of it.

"No, but I wish someday that you'd at least try to be." Johnny said.

"Is that a challenge?" Kelly asked, open mouthed.

"No, a hypothetical." Gage replied emphatically to erase any ideas of grandeur in him before they could become rooted. Then he thumbed the mic. "Chief,
specifically physical aspirant qualities. Any chance of drowning in the stuff?"

##None whatsoever. It looks like water, but doesn t cause the damage normally associated with water because it contains no moisture. When it hits lung tissue,
it'll just evaporate. Its danger lies only in the air it displaces while active and that's mainly why I was so worried earlier on during the rescue.##

"Thank you." Johnny said, setting down the radio. Then he picked it up again as an afterthought. "Oh, by the way tell the doc his vitals signs are: BP.." and he held out his radio to Roy.

"94 over 70." DeSoto chimed in.

And then Johnny pulled the radio back to his mouth. "Pulse 56, respirations electronically seem to be eight but deep. We've yet to uncover his head."

##Sounds like he's sleeping.## They heard Joanne intone over the speaker.

"Being stuck in this claustrophobic room's a good reason to take a nap!"
Chet said loudly.

Marco smacked him.

##What?## Joe said. ##That was funny. And I'm grateful for all you're doing for him. Ted out here's chaffing at the bit to get his hands on Chris but both he and I know the regulations against family treating family. Isn't that right, Ted?##

Chet bit his lip, choking down laughter.

An arff interrupted him. "We got it, fellas!" said Al Martelli.

A careful circle of firefighters slowly tipped the K-12 flower petalled storage tank off of two large pieces of pipework that had boxed in Chris's face. The mask of his scba, was shattered, and intact, but it was lying near his shoulder, askew.

"Oh, h-hang on a second, chief. He's free." Gage said, thunking down the HT onto the damp floor in his eagerness to get right in there up close and personal.

Roy DeSoto lightly rubbed a few knuckles into Chris's breast bone.
"Chris? Come on, wake up. Can you hear me?" he asked, nodding to an arff to keep Rorchek's head still in careful C-spine immobility.

All the firefighters in the room could almost hear the bated breaths of those listening in all over the airport through the radio. Even those working in the morgue fell silent.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then Chris's face screwed up in vague discomfort and he tried to speak. "Ugh.. is it out yet?" he croaked with a dry throat.

Everyone cheered at the top of their lungs as Chris's caked eyes slowly cracked open. Then he raised his I.V. free arm up and reached out a hand for someone's radio. He said just four words. "Hi, dad. What's shaking?"

##Nothing any more. You slept right through it, son. Congratulations on kicking a big dent into that huge behemoth of a fire. It made all the difference in the world in the end. How're you feeling?##

"Happy to be alive. Tell Hallie she owes me one big time."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Roy watched as Ted and Johnny helped irrigate a fair sized burn on Chris's right leg while he lay on a burn pack. He himself was getting his wrist burn attended to by Dr. Brackett who showed as much skill at painless salving and dressing as he always did.

Joe had relented and let his youngest son fuss over his oldest now that the critical phase of care giving was over.

Johnny Gage had to take a little break from his official duties when an ecstatically tearful Hallie gave him a great big hug of gratitude complete with a soggy wet, hard peck on the cheek once he had gotten out of his contaminated uniform and into Red Cross donated ski wear.

Chris's face had started to bleed from unseen small cuts in the cold,
but he asked that the EMTs steering his stretcher stop a moment so he could speak with his rescuers. "You know, I really appreciate everything that you guys did in there for me. I can't say I would've done the same thing. That room's my new nemesis." he joked, belying the healthy frown that sprouted on his bruised face.

Captain Stanley chuckled. "I'm just sorry it took a disaster to pull us all together into a really cohesive team."

"That would have happened anyway, sir." he said. "Firefighters are brothers for life."

"Anytime, man. Anytime.." Kelly said, taking Chris's offered hand.

Chris sighed as one of his attendants fitted him with precautionary oxygen, "So, where's my girl, huh?" he asked.

Hallie Green looked, for a moment, surprised.

But then, Chris picked up his head and looked beyond his blanketed feet.

Sophie the fire dog, was waiting patiently in the snow a short distance away, eagering awaiting one single command.

"Come here, girl." Chris said.

The dalmatian's cry of happiness as she sprang to his side, was joyous.

Together, Sophie and Chris wheeled off for a nearby warmed ambulance and where Joanne Almstedt, with her full array of gear, was waiting for them.

"Who's hungry?" Gage asked, when somebody's stomach growled quite audibly.

Everyone's hands went up.

Hallie got over her conundrum misunderstanding when Joe Rorchek stepped over to her side. "You haven't been forgotten. He knows you would have worked yourself ragged before you let anything bad happen to him. I know my son. And.. I know that he's secretly devoted to you." said Joe.

"Chief.. I-I.."

The elder Rorchek held up a hand to shush her before she said something that she regretted. "Here, let me prove it." he said, handing her an object. It was undefinable, melted and gray.

"What's this?" she said, taking it with barely veiled dislike.

"Well," said Joe. "When Chris realized that you weren't in the clean room when he woke up, he felt you were being...oh,... a little negligent."

Green's mouth fell wide open. "Chief! I was unconscious, and and.. and I was being treated on your orders. And Dr. Brackett's.. Why I..."

Joe dropped the punning punchline. "Hallie.. He wanted me to give you the boot."

Next to him, Chet's eyes glazed over in sheer admiration. "Now that.
is what I call.. the mother of all jokes."

Captain Stanley could only nod, yes.

Kelly smirked. "Bet that's Chris's."

"No bet." said Hank.

It was a little bit warmer that same night at the airport fire station.

Everybody was feeling different levels of energy compared to everyone else over the dinner table. But as expected, all the food plates had been scraped clean. Sophie, would have to do without.

Captain Stanley was well groomed, not at all interested in the local paper,
and analytical. "Well, I gotta tell ya. Things could have been a whole lot worse."

Dr. Brackett piped up. "How do you figure? I'd say a sixty eight percent fatality rate is rather high for an incident involving an entire airport population, wouldn't you agree?"

Joanne Almstedt pursed her lips around a hot mug of tea. "Can't judge our disaster against anything, Kel." she mused."So many factors came into play all at once that was...absolutely lethal from the first second.
A crashed Concorde travelling three hundred twelve miles an hour.
A ruptured fuel line the size and diameter of a sports car..."

Cap was bleak. "Fifty percent fire coverage."

"That's worse than a forest fire." Roy said, shocked.

"Yeah, and only nine percent foam. Even with all of our fire trucks pumping it out all at once." Stoker added.

"Don't remind me." Stanley sulked vaguely. "I'm still thinking about that middle airplane. What could we have done differently? What would have been faster? So many people....just died." he whispered.

"It was big, Hank." Joe told him. "Bigger than all of us. I'm not going to say the cliche but it's true. We're not gods. We can't control the weather."

"At least, not yet." said Kelly.

Everybody chuckled.

Nearby, a visiting R.N. Park Ranger Terri Blake and Morgan Wainwright nursed like cappacinos.

Blake's face became rosy as she tried to find the good in all the bad.
"So, who did survive yesterday?"

"Yeah, how about that boy we worked on, doc." Gage asked Dr. Brackett.

Kel looked up from glass of ice water and lime. "What boy?"

Johnny looked a little incredulous, surprised. "That cardiac arrest case that Cap, and I and Roy and Al and Ted worked after we dug him out of that luggage conveyer belt."

"I'm sorry, Johnny. At the time, I had three arrest cases being called in by radio. I just don't remember the details."

"Or an outcome?" Al asked, almost disgusted, deeply effected. "Doc, that kid was special! I could feel it!" he insisted, angry.

Next to him, Rags Harris chilled him out by gripping his arm. "Easy, Martelli.
He's our guest."

Martelli immediately apologized. "I'm sorry, Dr. Brackett. I -- It's just that I... really wanted to know how things turned out for Danny. You know what I mean?"

Minisculely, Kel shook his head again that he didn't remember a Danny.

Terri Blake timidly asked. "Who's Danny? Someone from the incident?"

Al just closed his eyes.

Roy took in a deep breath as they all became very, very thoughtful.
"You know, it's hard sometimes. Somebody asks if a boy made it. Honestly, Terri, we truly... don t remember. Often we never can learn how things turn out in the end. After we leave a patient in the ER, or unless a family member contacts us to thank us for our help, we never.
know... what becomes of the patient. And if they don t make it, well, then we read about it in the obits just like everyone else. It feels like... turning the TV off... fifteen minutes before the show is over."

-
It was morning,... of the second day.

Sophie the dog yawned in shy playful nervousness as she stretch bowed before the closed bunk room wing of the fire station.

Hallie eyed up Chris outside, as they left for a run to the coffee shop for some refreshments.

"For six?" Green said, stopping Chris before he got out the keys to his car.

"Well, yeah. They're all still sleeping, aren't they? I mean, who are we to kick out our foster folk when there's really nothing much for us to do at the airport except babysit a bunch of new construction workers, hammering away."

"Huh." said Green, parking a butt cheek against his Mustang, GTE with spoilers.

"Hey, I just polished that.."

"Polished what?" Hallie asked, still thinking.

"Uhhhh.. never mind." Chris said.

Green sighed. "You know. You're right. It's gonna take what? Six months to almost a year to rebuild MacArthur Airport?"

"At least." Rorchek said empathetically.

Hallie looked suddenly worried. "Does that mean we're out of a job?"

Chris's happy mood about the beautiful day, evaporated.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Inside the absolutely quiet and pitch black sleeping wing, somebody's watch, was ticking.

The gang of 51's was rising out of long period of slumber bordering on unconsciousness.

Marco spoke up sleepily. "Five bucks if you find that noise and kill it..." he mumbled from underneath his pillow.

"Not even for two hundred!" said Cap. "Ignore it like you ignore me about how many times you suffer KP duty in a row each week, back at home." Hank hissed, rolling back over to bury himself yet in another blanket.

"Cap," Marco said in a singsong protest. "That's not true."

The sounds of sheets irritating rustling, punctuated the silence.
"Well you never complain.." Stanley insisted.

"Should I?" Lopez asked.

"Yes!" Kelly barked.

Somewhere outside, Sophie agreed with him vocally, instantly,
with a single bark back.

Sighing, still troubled by his experience, Mike Stoker sat up softly in his bed, just to think. But he couldn't think.

There was something other than the watch, making noise.

"Hey, guys? What is that? Their plumbing?" he wondered.

Chet sat up, too, sleepily scratching his head. He peered about with sensitive eyes that reacted even with the lack of any light in the room. He looked right, seeing nothing out of order.

Then he looked left.

"Hey..." he said. "Johnny's bed hasn't been slept in. It's still made up." he yawned.

Lopez answered. "That's because he and that saucy redhead pilot were up all night talking."

"Oh, yeah? Where are they? They weren't downstairs when I went down earlier for a snack." Cap mumbled.

"I know where they are, guys." Roy said.

"Do tell. I'm stymied here." Kelly whined.

DeSoto just sighed. "In Confession."

"Where?"

"In . There ." Roy said, pointing to Joe's private bunk room.
"That's what they call it. A place where they talk when the office seems a little too intimidating for disciplinary actions. Al told me about it last night. Or was that yesterday?"

Muffled disturbances and high and low pitched murmuring could be heard, becoming louder and louder.

Marco started snickering and the others chimed in.

All except Chet.

"Boy, sounds like they're having fun.." Cap yawned, bored.

"Having a real party.." Roy agreed, rolling back over to sleep.

"That's no party." said Stoker, smiling.

"It's not?" Kelly asked.

"NoOOOoo." said Cap. "G*d, are you dense."

Kelly was not enjoying being sleepy and grumpy.
"Well, how am I supposed to know what that is? Sounds like war going on."

"Ah, Chet." Roy just nodded knowingly, as he smirked and re-rested his head back down onto an elbow. "I think I'll just leave that little mystery, up to your overactive imagination."

Beyond the strictly confidential fire house door, buried in soft pillows,
in the buff,...with no blankets, Morgan and Johnny were the very picture, of togetherness.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

FIN

Movie One, The Fire Within Episode Fifty Two

by Patti Keiper, NREMT-B/SEO

2009.

--------------------------------------------------------

Photo: Joanne looking thoughtful up close.

Photo: An old man being rolled over to clear an airway.

Photo: A very large gas line explosion hole and damage.

Photo: Ted Rorchek lying unconscious on the ground, being held.

Photo: Sophie the dalmatian sitting in the snow.

Photo: Gage, wearing ski gear, being hugged by Hallie.

Photo: R.N. Terri Blake, in street clothes.

Photo: Chris and Hallie funning with each other, outside on a nice day.

Photo: Marco, Chet and Stoker, sleeping in dark bunks, overhead.

Photo: Morgan and Johnny Gage having a roll in the hay.

**************************************************

---- STORY IS NOW COMPLETE-
***This current episode is now complete as of December 4th, 2009, 04:23 AM

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