House and Cuddy turned up at the accident site, watching the unbridled chaos with horror. People were milling around, clutching their bruised, battered and broken body parts, moaning in pain.
A crane collapse was a disaster, plain and simple. There was no good side to this. There were over a hundred people working on the site and now there were probably close to a hundred injured or dead.
Cuddy's eyes were wide as she surveyed the carnage. She was the Dean of the best hospital in New Jersey, and she was running this. There was a basic plan of action set up by the fire department but she was the one ultimately in charge. And she had no idea where to start.
"Ma'am?" The fire chief tapped Cuddy's shoulder gently. "What should we do?"
Cuddy shook her head, "just...give me a minute."
"We don't have a minute," the chief urged, shouting over the noise of the emergency choppers and ambulances.
"Okay," Cuddy breathed, "how many search quadrants are there?"
"Twelve," the chief answered, shifting them out of the way so a gurney could manoveure through. There was a middle-aged man lying on there, clutching his exposed skull. Cuddy grimaced, realising injuries like that were absolutely everywhere.
"Twelve," she repeated, processing. "And how many doctors?"
"Altogether there are twenty four," the chief relayed.
"Right, so two doctors per quadrant," Cuddy decided, as that was logical. "I don't care how you divide them up for now, just get them to where they should be." She whipped round and searched the area with her eyes. "House!" She shouted, watching him park his bike.
He limped over slowly, much to Cuddy's annoyance. She needed him to be fast, though of course the fact that he wasn't wasn't his fault.
"It's a mess, huh?" He stated the obvious.
"Yes. A big mess," she nodded, too preoccupied to care about any irritating comments he was going to throw at her.
"I want you here, in quadrant two," she instructed. Quadrant two was where they were standing so it wasn't far to walk and most of the damage was above ground, so there was no bending or crawling hopefully.
"Okay," House nodded, looking bored already. She knew he'd be bored, this was run-of-the-mill trauma so there was no reason for him to interested.
He liked puzzles that were completely jumbled, not once that were slightly jiggled but ultimately finished.
"I'll be in quadrant ten," she made a split second decision. Quadrant ten was still relatively close to the ambulance point but was also the place that bore the brunt of the crane. The biggest problems would most likely be there, so logically that's where Cuddy should be.
"Have fun," House told her, switching his cane from side to side, searching the sea of mutilated bodies for someone to take an interest in.
Cuddy took a stethoscope from a passing ambulance. She also took a few rolls of gauze and bandages and shoved them in her deep pockets, just in case there was some emergency triage on the way - and judging by the state of the accident site there probably would be.
Skittering across a pile of rubble, she coughed through a cloud of dust and found herself standing beside the crane, shouting and screaming coming from all angles. Taking a deep breath, she made her way to a nearby accident operator.
"What are the main problems here?" She shouted, ducking to avoid a chunk of plaster as it was chipped off a broken wall.
"Where should I start?" He said, smiling weakly, at awe by the situation. He was young, and looked innocent... To Cuddy it looked like he hadn't been doing this job all that long. Poor guy, what a site to start with.
"Where are the criticals from this area?" She was more specific, hoping to make it easier for him, and by default, for her.
"Over there," he waved non-committedly. "They're, uh, kind of everywhere."
First mistake. "Okay, you need to organise them," Cuddy ordered. "I'll be back," she promised, making her way closer to the immediate damage.
"Hey!" Someone shouted from outside an narrow opening. "Are you a doctor?"
"Yes!" She shouted back, rushing over, hoping to be of some definite help. "What's the problem?"
"There's a guy stuck in there," he rasped. "And we can't get him out. He's hurt, bleeding. We need a doctor to examine him."
Cuddy frowned. "In there?"
"Yes," the attendant told her. "Can you do it?"
Cuddy internally debated. On one hand, it was impossibly dangerous and she wasn't sure about risking it... On the other hand, finding another doctor who was willing to climb into the potential death trap would take time this guy most likely didn't have, and anyway, she was the boss, and chickening out was not something she planned on doing.
"Yes," she nodded vigorously. "I can do it."
"He's about four metres in, give or take," he explained. "There is a collapse team member there already, and he'll stay. You'll need to be in and out as quickly as you can, as we don't know how stable the area is, but our guess is not very."
"Of course," she nodded, strapping the flashlight to her head. "In, out. Got it."
"Good luck," he warned, helping her through the opening.
The crawl space was tiny and cramped, with rubble and pieces of gravel falling off and onto her with every move she made. The flashlight made only a tiny pinprick of light on the wall. Who knew four metres could feel so long?
After one more push, the tunnel widened out and she saw one man lying on the floor, covered in blood and another in a collapse team uniform, looking nervous. "I'm the doctor," she said, surprised at how raspy her voice sounded. She assumed it was from the thick air.
"Thank god," the team member sighed. "He's been out for two minutes now."
Cuddy took her small flashlight from her top pocket and shined it on his pupils. "Equal, round and reactive," she smiled. "That's good."
Suddenly, there was a shake, and some larger chunks of rubble fell. Cuddy felt her chest tighten. "We should get out," she told the collapse member. "Now."
"We could try and move him," he suggested. "Is that safe?"
"Safer than staying here," Cuddy murmured, as the structure shook again. "Lets do it."
Gently, the two of them shifted the young man a few inches. Then there was a crack, a bang, and then the whole roof collapsed on top of all the three of them.
House flicked his small light into the young woman's eyes. "You need a bandage," he told her. "There," he pointed to an ambulance, and sent her on her way.
God, he was bored. Why Cuddy needed a cripple here he would never know. He rubbed his aching temples, and massaged his leg, easing the cramped muscle.
He wasn't really paying attention to what was happening until he heard a huge crash in the background. And then there was screaming and shouting and: "Major secondary collapse in quadrant ten!"
House stopped. Hold up, quadrant ten? Wasn't that where...
Cuddy. Cuddy was there, she was in quadrant ten. There'd been another major collapse, and she was there.
She could be underneath that, trapped. House grabbed his cane and took off as fast as he could, hopping and shuffling and skidding, any way to get to quadrant ten faster.
It was carnage, chaos, destruction. It was clouds of dust and rubble and gravel and glass... It was blood. It was more mangled bodies, more injuries.
House moved over to a panicked looking collapse team member. "Are there people in there?" He bellowed, scaring the poor thing to death.
"What?" The young man quivered, obviously disturbed by the sight.
"Are there people in there?" House repeated. "Come on!"
"Uh..." The man was breathing fast, hyperventilating, but House didn't care. He just wanted his answer... He needed his answer.
"Uh... There was a man. And a member... Oh, and a doctor!" He forced out. "Oh my god..."
"What did the doctor look like?" House pressed, practically screaming at the man.
"Brown hair..." He said scaredly. "I'm sorry, I didn't see anything else..."
House knew there were two doctors available in each quadrant so far. And then, he saw one rush over. "I'm the quad ten doc!" He shouted. "Where am I needed first?"
This guy was man. He was not Cuddy... Which could only mean one thing.
"Cuddy!" House yelled, shouted, hollered. "Cuddy!"
She was buried under that rubble, god knows what had happened... All House knew for sure was one thing.
He was getting her out of there, alive.
A/N: So... What do you think? Do I go on? Review me! xx