Summary: Human life and the illusion of safety are fragile things changeable in an instant. Each moment should be savored because no one knows what the next instant could bring.

Disclaimer: Emergency! and the characters therein are the property of Mark VII Productions and Universal Studios. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary profit will be gained by their use in this story.


Chapter One

The dark rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingled with the unmistakable scent of breakfast greeted Roy as he stepped from the bathroom. Glancing over to the bed he noticed JoAnne had laid out a fresh uniform, t-shirt and boxers for him. Roy smiled fondly as he let the damp towel he had draped around his waist drop to the floor. The comparative coolness of the bedroom was refreshing after the moist warmth of the bathroom, and as Roy dressed he enjoyed the contrasts musing how each situation increased the pleasure of the next. Today just had to be a wonderful day because Roy felt absolutely amazing!

Downstairs in the DeSoto home JoAnne put the finishing touches on breakfast before going to call her children and husband to the table. It was a lusciously cool spring daybreak, and JoAnne was particularly fond of early mornings. She found she had time to think in the peaceful world of the pre-dawn hours while the house was still, and the world had yet to awaken outside. JoAnne and Roy had roused this morning before the alarm, and finding themselves with a few extra minutes the couple had availed themselves of the occasion by spending some quality time in marital connection. The warm memory of tender caresses and murmured endearments had blended nicely to create a delicious beginning for this break of day, and JoAnne hummed happily to herself as she turned from the completed sunrise spread to waken her children.

JoAnne quickly walked out of the kitchen toward Jennifer and Chris's rooms. As she rounded the corner she collided somewhat forcefully with Roy's lean muscular body. Instinctively strong arms grabbed her enfolding her in a warm and halting embrace. Startled green eyes peered up into twinkling blue ones as JoAnne gasped in surprise at the suddenness of the encounter. Roy smiled down warmly at his wife and said "well good morning again Mrs. DeSoto. Were you in a hurry to get some place?"

JoAnne giggled and kissed him gently on the lips. "I was going to wake the kids. Breakfast is ready, and I wanted to make sure you all got an early start to your day." And she leaned into Roy's body "But this is nice too." She finished. "He looks so handsome in uniform!" She thought as they continued to stand in the embrace their collision had created. JoAnne leaned up again to kiss Roy, this time with more passion and languid enjoyment. Both hearts raced a bit as husband and wife enjoyed the kiss, and when they separated JoAnne said in a sultry wanton voice "ummmm…God I just love a man in uniform."

"Yes you did, and very well this morning already I think." Roy replied with desire and humor apparent in his eyes. Releasing her from his grasp he gently caressed her soft cheek in his hand smiling down at her suggestively.

Warmth and color rose in JoAnne's cheeks at his remark and she replied "Thank you kind sir. I was just doing my part to make sure you got up early this morning." And she allowed her hand to gently brush across his belt buckle and other anterior areas slightly further south while stepping reluctantly from his embrace, a wickedly inviting leer decorating here lovely countenance.

Roy's breath caught in his throat with her lingering departing touch, and he mused it was a pity he needed to leave for work in a few minutes. With a heavy sigh Roy allowed JoAnne to brush past him, and continued on into the kitchen where he poured himself a cup of coffee.

A few minutes later as Roy sat sipping coffee at the breakfast table while perusing the morning paper, he heard the sounds of his wife and children coming down the hallway. Folding the paper, he set it aside as first Jennifer, and then Chris sleepily entered the kitchen. Roy reached out from his chair and snagged Jennifer as she plodded drowsily toward her seat. He hugged his daughter warmly briefly drawing the six year old up onto his lap for a morning snuggle and kiss. "Mornin' babe. Sleep well?" he said to the child.

With a small fist rubbing at sleepy sapphire eyes, Jennifer gazed up into her father's face and smiled. "Mornin Daddy. Slept good. Wish it was Saturday instead of Monday." She grumpily replied as he released her.

Roy gently swatted his daughter on the rump sending her on her way with "Me too honey. But ya know, it's gonna be a beautiful day and Saturday will get here soon enough."

Next Roy reached out and drew his even sleepier and grumpier eight year old son into a hug. Ruffling the boy's already disheveled blond hair he said "Mornin son."

Chris mumbled something unintelligible as he ducked away from Roy. Stepping toward his seat at the table he mumbled "Mornin Dad."

Everyone in the DeSoto family seated themselves, and breakfast was enjoyed. Slowly as food and drink awakened each family member, conversation picked up. Anticipated events for each person's day were shared, and plans for the following evening were discussed. JoAnne reminded Roy to invite Johnny over for dinner the next night because she had already prepared and was currently marinating rolled stuffed flank steak. She knew it was one of Johnny's favorite meals. Children eagerly agreed and with an air of exited anticipation for an impending visit with Uncle Johnny, Chris and Jennifer having finished breakfast were dismissed to dress for the day while Roy and JoAnne lingered a few extra moments over coffee.

All too soon, Roy grabbed his duffle and spare uniforms, and picking up his car keys he prepared to take his leave. JoAnne kissed Roy one last time and reminded him to have a safe shift as she sent him out the door.

Roy's yellow Porsche turned into the driveway for L.A. County Fire Station 51 a good 45 minutes early. He climbed out of his vehicle noticing Mike Stoker and Hank Stanley's cars along with the cars from C shift were parked in the lot. Johnny's Land Rover was nowhere to be seen, but considering this was a Monday morning, Roy wasn't really surprised. Roy grabbed his gear out of his vehicle, and headed for the locker room.

When Johnny arrived at the station he found all but one of his crew mates cars were parked in the lot behind the station. With a victorious lopsided grin he leapt from his Rover and bounded for the open apparatus bay door grateful he was already dressed and ready to go. Chet would be the last to arrive, and that'd mean latrine duty for the phantom. "This day is startin' out all right!" Johnny mused as he rushed into the locker room and stowed his bag and spare uniforms.

Johnny walked into the kitchen a full ten minutes early for work. He quickly filled a mug with coffee and joined his crew mates and some of the departing members of C shift at the kitchen table. Morning pleasantries were exchanged, and sections of the newspaper were claimed as the firemen sipped their steaming mugs. Gradually the men of C shift began to drift out of the kitchen preparing to go home after what had been described as a busy shift.

Captain Stanley strode into the kitchen after he had finished the change of command ritual with C shift's Captain Hookraider. "Roll call gentlemen." Hank announced.

The four assembled men stood from the table, and proceeded into the bay to don dress hats and line up behind the squad. Chester B Kelly dashed into the bay just in time to toss his duffle onto the squad's back bumper and slide into line shortly before Captain Stanley began to speak. Stanley glanced up from his clipboard when Chet slipped into line saying "well good morning Kelly. Glad you could join us. I guess we know who'll be cleaning the latrines today."

With a sheepish grin, and downcast head Chet replied "Yeah, Cap. Got it. That'd be me today."

"Good." Stanley replied and continued with announcements and job assignments for the day.

Roll call completed the men of 51's began their morning chores. Johnny and Roy retired to the squad to commence inventory and equipment checks. Johnny was elbow deep in the drug and trauma boxes counting supplies while Roy held a clipboard noting quantities, and lists of needed materials. The men worked efficiently and chatted amiably as their task proceeded.

"You're sure in a good mood." Johnny observed of his partner as he sorted through the I.V. bags in the trauma box and relayed the number of each to Roy.

Roy remembering his warm send off for the morning as he spoke smiled softly. "Well, it's a beautiful day out. Why shouldn't I be in a great mood?"

Roy's soft pleasant voice caused Johnny's attention to shift for a moment as the younger medic turned his gaze to inspect his partner. Instantly surmising a likely reason for his partner's positive demeanor Johnny grinned at Roy. "Oooooh….I see. Why, yes indeed, looks like it was a lovely morning." He remarked succinctly, and he winked at Roy with a conspiratorial grin sliding across his face before returning to the inventory.

Roy's cheeks colored slightly as he ducked his head in apparent inspection of something on the clipboard. "So, how many Ringers bags do we have?" he quarried attempting to re-direct Johnny's focus.

Johnny's soft chuckle was easily detected as he again began relaying numbers, and Roy continued to make notations. When the inventory and supply list were finished, the paramedics completed medical equipment checks and radio calibrations as they made final preparations to begin the shift.

"So, how were your days off Junior." Roy inquired of his younger partner. Roy was re-packing the defibrillator and Datascope after carefully checking the equipment for readiness.

Johnny who had been working with the O2 tanks stopped momentarily to look in Roy's direction. "Great! I had an amazing date with that new nurse from Rampart, Shelby Makee. You know, the voluptuous well endowed blond with those beautiful blue eyes and fabulous smile?"

"Oh?" Roy quarried with a raised eyebrow as his attention turned from the case he had been sliding back into the squad's side compartment. "So it went well? You two on for another date then?"

"Oh yeah, she's amazing Roy! Not only is she gorgeous, she's probably the sweetest woman I've ever been out with." Johnny replied as he resumed working on the oxygen tank. "Ya know, one of those really neat people who are just good through and through. I tell ya, that woman is incredible!"

Roy had heard it all before. His partner would briefly fall in "love" with a woman only to jump out of it a few short days later. Johnny's lack of ability to maintain more than casual short term relationships with women baffled Roy because to him Johnny was the most loyal of friends. Johnny was a good hearted person, and one of those individuals who always seemed to think of others comfort and safety before considering his own. Roy just couldn't figure out how a guy who got on so well with women couldn't show how truly terrific he was to a woman for a long enough time to establish a long term relationship with a potential partner, or even wife.

Suddenly Roy remembered JoAnne's dinner invitation to Johnny for the following evening. "Are you planning on takin' this Shelby out again?" he inquired casually.

"Yup. I thought maybe we'd go out to dinner tomorrow night." Johnny replied as he stowed the now ready O2 cart in the front passenger's compartment of the squad.

"Hmmm, I have an idea." Roy said, again careful to maintain a casual tone. "JoAnne is marinating some of that rolled stuffed flank steak you enjoy so much. She'd already asked me to invite you over for supper tomorrow. How about you come over and bring your date….that is if you don't think we'll scare her off." Roy proposed.

Johnny who had moved on to inspecting non medical equipment on the squad looked up suspiciously from his task. "Roy?" He inquired with a raised eyebrow. "Are you tryin' to play matchmaker again?"

"Hey? I didn't even know about this girl until just now Junior." Roy replied defensively, but his too innocent grin and the humor twinkling in his eyes betrayed his words. "But, now that ya mention it, this one does sound like a winner and I gotta tell ya partner, married life definitely has some worthwhile perks. Take this absolutely sensationally lovely morning for example….."

Johnny laughed aloud at his partner's declaration. Then pausing thoughtfully he said "ya know, I do love JoAnne's cookin, and well, this girl is pretty terrific…. It might be fun to introduce her to Jo, Jen and Chris. Let me ask her when we are over at Rampart, I know she's working today. She's pretty easy going, and I know she comes from a rather large family. This might be an evening we would all enjoy."

Roy smiled happily slapping his partner on the shoulder. "Sounds great!" he said as both men headed out to begin their respective station chores.

Jimmy Watkins and Steve Friendswood finished their lunches and headed outside of the shop at International Cable Television Company. Jimmy, a six foot two inch tall burley guy with dishwater blond hair climbed behind the wheel of their heavy work truck and turned the key. Glancing down at the gauges on the dash board he called to Steve through the window. "Come on Steve. We are low on fuel, and we need to drive over to the pump so we can fill 'er up before we hit the road."

Steve, a six foot one inch tall long lanky clean cut brunette man, jumped into the cab grinning good naturedly. "All right, let's do it." He replied. "I'll fill the tank for you Jimmy 'cause I know that natural gas freaks you out."

Jimmy gave Steve a grateful smile. "Thanks man! I know it's stupid, but driving a truck powered by natural gas just always sort of seemed dangerous to me. That stuff can explode without any warning, and I guess I get a little squeamish sometimes when I have to be around it. I don't think about it so much when I'm driving the truck, but filing the tank….well…."

Steve chuckled knowing Jimmy was underestimating his reaction. "It's more than a little squeamish bud, but don't worry about it. I'll take care of filling the tank for you partner."

Jimmy pulled the heavy vehicle up to the natural gas refueling station and Steve hopped out of the cab and began to fill the large tank. The company had switched over to powering their service fleet with natural gas as a result of the recent oil embargo and subsequent energy crisis, and thus far everyone seemed to be pleased with the change, except Jimmy. Though he realized the alternative fuel was cheaper for his company, Jimmy couldn't seem to shake the feeling he was somehow driving a ticking time bomb when he thought about the huge tank filled with natural gas he carried just under and behind the passenger's compartment of their work truck. He hated re-fueling, and was extremely grateful his partner and best friend Steve had volunteered to complete the odious task today.

"So Linda is gonna make roast beef for dinner tonight." Jimmy called out the window to his partner. "She said I should invite you and Lesley to join us for dinner. Interested?"

"I'll have to check with Lesley, but you know how much I love Linda's cooking. I bet I can talk Lesley into coming over. Want us to pick up some dessert?" Steve replied as he finished refueling and closed the cap for the fuel compartment.

"That'd be great. Why don't you guys come over at say seven-thirty." Jimmy replied as Steve hopped into the cab of the truck. Then Jimmy started the engine and the pair drove out of the company lot toward the 405 freeway en route to their next service call.

Andrea Washington climbed behind the wheel of here candy apple red Audi sports coup. It was a brilliantly beautiful California early afternoon and Andie intended to do some shoe shopping. She started the powerful engine of the car, slipped into her sleek Ray Ban sunshades and while the engine purred contently she shifted the car into gear and maneuvered her way toward the 405. A cool breeze whipped Andie's long blond curls into a frenzy as she accelerated onto the freeway. The radio blasted out the Bee Gees' latest hit "Stayin Alive" in competition with the noises of the wind rushing by the vehicle as Andie zipped through traffic mindlessly maneuvering the coup from lane to lane while her thoughts drifted to her upcoming evening plans.

Fred Brewster groaned aloud as he studied the traffic congested freeway ahead of him. He had been driving his semi since very early in the morning, and he was tired. Fred just wanted to deliver this tanker load of vegetable oil to the bread factory and go someplace and take a nap. "These stupid California drivers" he muttered as a blue sedan darted quickly into the lane in front of Fred's truck. Fred gripped the big steering wheel of the rig, and judiciously applied just enough brake to avoid hitting the blue sedan.

Traffic was moving along at around forty or fifty miles an hour and the congested roadway made for exciting driving. Excitement was the last thing the grumpy semi driver was seeking. Noticing things seemed to be moving more expeditiously in the left center lane, Fred who currently occupied the right center lane signaled, checked his side mirrors, and slowly merged left.

Glancing in his side mirror again Fred noticed a very attractive blond driving a bright red sports car in the left lane just behind Fred. She was moving up fast, and Fred after a quick look at the road again peered into his mirror to get a better look at the lovely lady before she moved past him.

Suddenly a heavy white work truck with a cable company logo on the side darted into Fred's lane. But the truck Fred realized hadn't allowed enough space, and just before the two vehicles collided Fred attempted to steer clear by swerving the big rig into the left lane. Fred didn't have time to look and see if the blond in the sports car had moved out of his way. Things just happened too fast.

Then there was the horrible crunch of metal as Fred saw his rig collide with the back driver's side rear quarter panel and bumper of the cable truck. The cable truck spun wildly out of control crossing the lane directly in front of Fred, and to Fred's horror his rig again slammed into the driver's door of the now spinning cable truck. Sounds of screaming ripping metal and breaking glass mixed with the sickening howl of tortured tires attempting to brake but sliding on rough pavement. Fred's truck twisted slightly to his left and he heard yet one more nauseating crunch. Fred realized another car must have slammed into the tank he was hauling.

As Fred continued to battle for control of his rig which was now sliding sideways diagonally down the thoroughfare he saw the heavy duty white truck spin once more, screech painfully along the concrete highway divider, and finally collide with a light pole on the side of the road.

Fred's body was hurled into the door as his truck too spun, and the last thing he would remember before his head slammed into the driver's side window was the sight of the light pole beginning to crash down upon the cable truck.

Jimmy carefully maneuvered his large work truck through post lunch time traffic on the 405. It was almost one thirty in the afternoon, but traffic was still crazy. Suddenly a blue four door sedan whipped into the right center lane just in front of Jimmy's front bumper, and abruptly slammed to an almost complete stop.

Jimmy gripped the wheel of the big truck, and in a last ditch effort to avoid hitting the smaller car he jerked his truck to the left into what seemed to be a clear place in the other lane. In his haste to avoid the impending collision with the blue sedan, Jimmy misjudged the distance between his vehicle and the semi that had been moving up to take the empty spot in the left center lane before Jimmy unceremoniously claimed it.

Jimmy saw the trucker attempt to avoid the crash, and realized they were in trouble. "Hold on!" he screamed to Steve who looked up from the work order he'd been completing. Wide eyed Steve grabbed for the ceiling handle by the door to hold on as he heard and felt the horrible crunch of two large vehicles colliding.

Then the world began to spin. Jimmy felt his truck swirl out of control, and looked out the driver's side window just in time to see the front bumper of the big rig nearing his face. Jimmy screamed just before the impact, and blackness claimed him with a horrible crunching sound and white hot pain.

Steve saw the semi hit their truck again too. His partner's scream, then the spray of blood combined with the overly intense sensation of the helplessly spinning truck were terrifying. Steve heard hideous screams of brakes and tires, and he felt the grinding of metal tearing across concrete as the cable truck screamed helpless down the concrete highway divider spraying sparks as it slid. Steve heard the unmistakable whooshing sound as freed natural gas ignited from one of the sparks, and again another horrible crash as the truck smacked into a light pole. Steve was thrown forward against his seatbelt, then back against the glass of the truck's rear window. Steve saw the light pole falling just before his head hit the glass of the rear window and blackness mercifully claimed him.

Andie could see traffic was becoming heavier as she eased her red sports car into the far left lane. Just in front of her in the left center lane she saw a large tanker driver. Andie hated driving behind big trucks, and she pressed the accelerator pedal a little harder in order to get around the big rig. Just as Andie pulled up beside the tanker she suddenly heard the screech of brakes. Instinctively Andie too hit her brakes. Then all at once the tanker veered across the left lane directly in Andie's path!

Terrified Andie stood on the brakes while attempting to steer her car onto the left shoulder and hopefully around the wildly careening tank truck. But as Andie moved to her left, the tanker also moved further left; almost as if the driver of the big rig were following her intentionally blocking her escape route! A collision was immanent Andie realized with horrer as she vainly stepped even harder on the brake pedal.

She saw the tanker looming ever closer. Andie knew her car was going to crash underneath the huge tank part of the truck. As her hood disappeared beneath the truck Andie instinctively ducked her head and body down to her right in the seat. Horrific sounds of glass breaking around her and metal moaning agonizingly as it was sheered apart mingled with the BeeGees' singing on the car stereo. Andie felt glass shards and metal debris raining down upon her as her car's roof was ripped from its body. After what seemed to be an inordinately long slide, the vehicle finally came to a stop. Where there had been a bright California day, there was sudden and complete darkness. Andie felt some viscous something dripping down upon her from above. After all the crazy movement of the wreck, suddenly everything was by contrast almost deathly still and dark. Andie could see no light, yet to her amazement the Bee Gees' continued to sing "ah..ah..ah…ah…stayin alive…..stayin alive…."

After a few seconds, and an eternity in which Andie tried to decide if she were alive or dead, she finally reached out in front of her to silence the weirdly appropriate music. When she clicked off the radio Andie became aware of yet another sound, the approaching wail of sirens.