I took an early morning drive through the city during early morning rush hour to get a feel for the streets and the traffic. Maps are one thing, but they never really mean that much to me until I’ve driven the roads and can put a picture to the corner.
When I got home, I began marking the map for the morning rush hour and the usual traffic tie- ups. It’s an odd hobby, but one that comes in quite useful when you’re running an ambulance, or acting as a motorcycle medic.
It’s a wonderful job really, but very new to the area. Thing is the Australians and the Brits have been doing it for over sixty years. Remote areas, heavy traffic– there are times when you need to get a medic to a person faster than traffic will allow and helicopters aren’t always the answer.
Enter the motorcycle medic.
It’s a bit different from a standard medic’s position, because there’s usually a much longer wait for transport. Normally the job means stabilize and transport, but when transport is delayed and you have a patient with a serious condition, you have a lot more work ahead of you. Its up to you to stabilize them and keep them going until the transport can get there.
After I finished up with the maps, I ended up over at the clinic helping Trina out. For the most part I ended up being a combination triage nurse and a P.A. handling the minor cases.
I didn’t do too badly, but lets face it, my training is geared to emergencies. You help the patient and keep them going until you can get them to hospital for treatment. Its very rare in my line of work that colds are a serious concern. Usually by the time that comes into play, they’re at the hospital, and under the care of a full medical staff.
Still, a lot of the folks didn’t want anything to do with me other than “What’s the problem.” and “the Doctor will see you now.” (Did I mention, I make a lousy duty nurse?)
On the bright side, today didn't seem as bad as yesterday was, although I did get some rather nasty stares from a few of the older patients. I knew it was about the gangers, but there was nothing I could do about that, and nothing I would change. It’s what I’m trained to do. You swear the oath, you put aside your personal feelings and judgements.
The only thing that matters is the injured and treating them, the rest can wait until after the situation is under control. The problem is, right now, my entire life seems out of control.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm fighting what might not be a losing battle, but definitely one you can't win.
At least with the two of us working the clinic things ran rather smoothly. I know Trina looked a lot less frazzled by the end of the day.
There were actually times when nothing was happening. I’m not sure if Trina was pleased, or worried by that. Maybe I’m not the only one running from my own demons.
Around five she came into the nurse's station and caught me listening to the traffic reports and making notes on my maps: marking the traffic flows, and charting the problem areas.
When I explained that I needed to know the routes to take and how the time of day will effect my run, she shook her head and told me it was a busman's holiday. I had to chuckle at that one-- technically working here is a busman's holiday.
But sometimes the only holiday you have is the one you make, busman or otherwise, at least it’s a change.
Well, I’m slated to start work in one week. I’m actually looking forward to it. After two days of kids with skinned knees and angry mothers, I could use a rest from this little diversion. Trina keeps trying to tell me I’m a natural and should think about a “serious medical career.”
I know she’s teasing, but sometimes I think I went into emergency medicine because you don’t have as much time to get attached to the patient. I mean, you’ve got a serious job to do. You get them out of danger and where they can be helped and you don’t have time to let emotions come into play. You do that, somebody almost always gets hurt. Its an odd combination of remaining detached, but accessible. The last thing you want is a patient who thinks you don’t care, cause that’s when they stop caring.
Still, there are cases where you spend an inordinate amount of time with the patient. Either while you’re trying to extricate them and keep them conscious, or you’re trying to keep them going until the rest of the team arrives.
Those times, you do get to know about them, and you’re almost always curious as to how they’re doing afterwards. I have a few people like that in Baltimore. The folks who didn’t stop fighting, the ones who looked you up afterwards just to say thanks... the kids.
I almost always remember the kids. Here its different. The kids aren’t in any serious danger for the most part probably got what they deserved, like the Jenkins’ boy who got bitten when he grabbed the neighbor’s cat by the tail and tried to swing him over his head.
But then you get kids like the Davis boy who got ‘thumped up’ by the local gang. Yeah, them again. And of course, since I patched them up it was all my fault. Richard didn’t seem to mind that fact, but his mom– man did she lay into me.
I was glad Trina was there to bail me out. She was calm and patient and explained that as a medic, it’s my duty to treat anyone in need.
It was a great speech, and I almost believed that she agreed with it until the end of the day when two rather bloody Orks came in dragging an Elf between them. They looked as if they’d been in a major fight somewhere. They were in need and Trina refused to help them.
She REFUSED! I couldn’t believe the same woman who preached tolerance and duty was turning her back on folks who were obviously in need.
She just told them to get out, and not to come back.
I think I must have been staring at her in disbelief and shock when she turned around. She just glared at me and told me that if I had a problem with that I could leave too.
Needless to say I did. I ended up patching them up in their van, but it was rough. Half the stuff I needed was either in the clinic or in my kit at home. I couldn’t go back to the clinic, that much was obvious and they refused to go to the apartment. I did what I could for them, and then they were off. I ended up going for a long ride, trying to clear my head on the whole matter, but I kept thinking about Trina’s reaction.
I was halfway to Redmond before it hit me: all of her patients had been human. That thought sent a shiver up my spine. I pulled over and just sat there for a while. I know it wasn’t the smartest thing I could do, but I just needed to think.
I got back to the apartment around midnight and just collapsed. I’m not sure if I’m going back to the clinic.
The day started at about 3 AM when I heard breaking glass and an explosion. I barely heard it, but the sound of sirens, that woke me up. Lets face it, if there’s one sound I’m well in tune with, it’s a siren.
My adrenalin was pumping before I was even consciously aware of the siren. From there, I was moving before I could really think about what I was doing. I jammed my feet into my boots, grabbed my kit and was out the door without a second thought.
It was a fire bomb, and it hit the clinic. I was completely confused until I saw the hate slogans someone had sprayed around the building. I felt sick to my stomach.
I mean I just couldn’t believe it. Everything had seemed so normal, I thought this kind of stupidity had mercifully died out. I wanted to find the people who did this and make them need my services, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. People like that never seem to learn. Unless what you say agrees with their cannon, your words mean nothing.
I scanned the faces of those gathered, knowing that people who work on this sort of terror like to see the results of their work, make sure their message was heard, but I didn’t see anybody that seemed out of place, except probably me.
As the fire trucks finished their job I saw Trina sitting on the curb across the street from the clinic staring at the gutted building. Mario was sitting next to her, trying to comfort her, but I could see the shock in her eyes. I think Mario saw it too, cause he got a blanket and wrapped it around her.
He caught my eye as I headed towards them and shook his head. I guess I was probably the last person she wanted to see right then, I don’t think I could really blame her.
I tried to go back to sleep, but it just wasn’t happening. It was a long time before dawn came and I played last night’s events back over and over again in light of what had happened. Was it fear that had made her send them away? I didn’t know any more. I had been so sure that she was motivated by hatred and now this.
Now I had seen the true face of hate. By the time the sun rose, I knew what I had to do. I went back to the clinic, or the remains of the clinic, and began cleaning it out. I was deep in thought and self recrimination when I noticed the people who’d gathered. I turned, ready for them to blame me, to tell me I had no place there, but instead they began picking up the pieces with me.
Maybe it wasn’t them not understanding, but me not giving them a chance. By noon we were all tired and the woman from the café came over and handed out sandwiches. She made sure I took one and gave me a brief smile.
It was long work, and by the time the sunlight started to fade, I started to blend into the darkness, coated in ash and soot. I forced myself to keep going, it was almost a sort of penance. As I reached for the last of the wreckage, Mario put a hand on my shoulder.
“You’ve done enough Jess,” he said softly.
I looked at him, shaking my head. It was my fault and I told him as much.
He chuckled gently. “No Jess... This was not your fault.”
I looked at him. I’m sure my expression was seriously confused.
“You did not bomb the clinic... you did not paint those hateful sayings...”
“But they did it because of me... because I treated those people...”
“If they had not done it now, they would have done it later... but that does not matter... what matters is that we rebuild and continue on. And you are doing that...”
I shook my head and tried to say something, anything, but the words weren’t there. My world had been so clean cut until today, black and white. That illusion was shattered with the front window of the clinic.
“There are good people here,” Mario told me softly. “But the hateful ones are the ones we tend to see... If you think about it, they have hurt themselves more than those they hate, for they have robbed themselves of the medical facilities that they may need.”
I tried to think about that, but all I could see was the damage.
“Go to sleep Jess, it will be better in the morning.”
I went home, tried to follow his advice, but sleep was a long time in coming.
Remind me to stay on Mario’s good side...
Yesterday caught up to me with a vengeance. My whole body ached when I got up and forced myself back into the shower. I was still washing soot out of my hair, but when I looked down the water shifted from black to red– blood red.
I can remember it so vividly. Everything was so normal and then I was surrounded... I can’t even think about it without shuddering. It was a nightmare unlike any I have ever had. All I remember was the pain and the terror. Something was grabbing me, holding me down as fire surrounded me. I could feel it, smell it... it burned... it...
It was bad.
There seemed no escaping the pain and fear. I know I screamed, screamed myself hoarse and then some. When I finally broke free of the nightmare I was soaked in sweat and too exhausted to move. I was also wrapped up in a blanked and someone was holding me.
For the longest time, I could hear their voices, but I couldn’t make any sense of the sounds. I stared out at the familiar surroundings but I didn’t really see them. I just knew that if I closed my eyes, the nightmare would take me again.
Finally the voices started making sense, and I actually recognized them, Mario and Trina. I let out a long sigh and tried to move.
“Easy,” Trina urged. I could hear the concern in her voice.
“Did anybody get the number of the truck that hit me?” I managed to ask, at least I think I did. It’s still a bit unreal to me.
I could feel Mario’s strong hands helping me sit up, and Trina gently helping from her side. Once I was upright Mario pressed a steaming cup in my hands and told me to drink. I took a sip and almost threw up.
“Drink” he told me again.
I brought the cup up and tried to take another sip, but I couldn’t.
“Drink it quickly,” he urged me. His tone was soft enough, but it left no room for argument.
When I finally got it down, he helped me lay back down. I don’t know how long I was out, but at least there were no more nightmares. When I woke up, the furniture had been pushed aside and I was laying in the middle of the floor, in the middle of a circle.
Mario was still there, but he looked almost as bad as I felt. I waited until he told me it was alright to move. I’ve seen enough of what Alan does to know that once a spell is started any interruption can have disastrous effects.
When he finished, I looked at him. “What happened?” I finally managed to ask.
It turned out that it was Mario’s revenge on those responsible for the attack on the clinic. He called them the ‘Night Terrors’, his friends. Unfortunately for me, my guilt drew them to me. I was responsible, at least in my own mind, and that was enough for them.
Needless to say, I spent most of the day in bed after that.
I didn't have any more nightmares, but then again, Mario stayed with me all night. When I woke up, he was there, handing me another vile smelling concoction.
I made the mistake of sipping it again and after all my system had been through, that was the last straw. When I was finally functional enough I looked around and realized that I was on the couch in the boy's condo. The furniture had been pushed back into place, but I could still see the remains of the circle.
“Is it over?” I remember asking weakly.
Mario looked at me. His expression was both kind and sad. “For now,” he told me. “For now.”
I forced myself to concentrate on him. “For now?”
He sighed and gave me a rather apologetic look. “I am afraid that once they have entered your mind, their effect remains.”
I really didn’t like finding out that the ‘Night Terrors’ were gone only to find out that I’d be having flash backs from their visit.
I think Mario understood my line of thought, because he shook his head. “It is not that bad... it is the memory of what they did. I’m sorry Jess. I didn’t think they’d harm any other than those who did the actual damage to the clinic.”
I wasn’t really worried about that anymore. It was my fault that they attacked the clinic, but I can’t not treat somebody because of what might happen. Still, I’m pretty sure Trina won’t want to see my face around there. Not after yesterday.
That was my line of thought, but I was very wrong. I had lost a day in there with the ‘Terrors’ and trying to cope with what happened.
Mario looked at me and smiled kindly. “Go take a shower, you’ll feel better. Then I’ll take you out for late lunch.”
That gave me a start. I was so sure it was still relatively early in the morning but looking at the clock, it was indeed well after noon.
The shower helped, as did the food. I couldn’t help but notice the way people stared at me. I didn’t know what to make of it until one of them walked up and put a hand on my shoulder.
“I hope you won’t let what happened scare you away,” she said.
‘I hope you won’t let what happened scare you away.’ I couldn’t believe it. These people, who I brought so much destruction in my attempts to do the right thing are hoping the violence doesn’t stop me from trying.
“They are good people,” Mario told me later. “Sometimes they are afraid but they are trying to do what they think is right, just like everybody else. Sure, they’ll make mistakes, but they’ll own up to them and move on.”
I knew by his smile he wasn’t just talking about them, but about me. Its given me something to think about.
July 4th - Independence day, sometimes I wonder why we still celebrate it. The world has changed so much since a few British colonies declared their independence and then fought for it. The country they formed has changed, shifted, disintegrated since then. Instead of a tyrannical government running our lives, we have corporations to do the job. The ancient battlegrounds have given way to shopping malls, corporate complexes and mini-marts. Only a few of the parks and monuments remain.
I can remember as a kid, when we were a smaller slightly more functional family, dad took us into the city to watch the fireworks from Ft. McHenry. I remember watching the colorful explosions and vowing that some day, I would be a 'sky painter'. I was five at the time and I couldn't even pronounce pyrotechnics, let alone understand what all was involved with the production I was witnessing. I only knew that it was beautiful.
Matt picked me up and held me so I could see better and he was pointing out the contrails and I followed them, jumping when they'd finally explode and deliver their charges. I don't think I ever felt safer than I did that day or more in awe of the world around me.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to that day and start over. It was a time of innocence, when Matt was in his police officer phase and Alan was going to be a stage magician, and I was going to paint pictures in the sky.
A lot has changes since then. Looking around the apartment I see vague reminders of those days, a portrait of the four of us from the last time I was here visiting, the small postcard I sent them last 4th of July, a picture of the fireworks over Ft. McH.
I went there last year. It just wasn't the same. I was so busy worrying about the safe handling of explosives, and the children playing with bottle rockets.
Once a medic, always a medic I guess.
The experiences of the last few days are catching up with me. I always counted on the boys to be there for me: Matt to protect me, Alan to analyze everything and tell me what was really happening, and Andy to keep me on an even keel.
Here I am, in their city, their condo, trying to fill the hole they left behind, and I have absolutely no clue what that hole is. That was one of the things that was missing. There was no sign of work, profession... what were the boys doing out here?
I pulled out a microwave dinner and was about to fix it when Mario knocked on the door. The man is going to pull me out of my shell whether I want him to or not. He pretty much told me that was his plan.
It was a community block party-- just folks, celebrating. It was nice.
People greeted me, welcomed me to the neighborhood and tried to make me feel at home. Even some of the local gang was there, passing out potato chips and punch. It was almost like a perfect moment. I saw Trina out of the corner of my eye, but anytime I moved towards her, she was gone.
Not that I blame her, I mean I made such a monumental mess of everything. At least that was what I thought.
Rule number 1 : Kids and fireworks do *not* mix.
Rule number 2 : Fireworks and lighter fluid mix all too well.
It amazes me how quickly things can change, especially when you're a medic. One of the kids was playing with a sparkler and decided she wanted more, and another kid decided to help her. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but the sparklers hit the lighter fluid and before you can say 'flash fire' Trina and I were on the scene putting out flames and kids.
I looked at her, since she was senior to me in the medical buis, and she was looking at me 'cause I was the resident medic and like I said, there's a difference between General medicine and emergency medicine. We got the kids situated and after the ambulance took them away, I looked at Trina.
I figured it was time to figure out where I stood, 'cause on the whole I like the lady, and her dad's the only real friend I have here. So, I asked her if I could buy her a cup of coffee.
She accepted and I'm glad she did.
We sat staring at our cups of coffee for quite a while before either of us spoke, and then we both started at the same time. Finally I started.
“I’m sorry,” I finally managed to tell her. “I didn’t think my treating those people would cause all this trouble. I never wanted to hurt you or the others...”
Trina smiled at me and then laughed slightly. “Aw, Jess...” she told me shaking her head. “And here I was afraid you’d never come back to the clinic.”
“I... didn’t think you’d want me,” I told her finally. “Between the attack and the way I reacted...”
Trina smiled again and then took a sip of her coffee. “Jess, I couldn’t help them, not without endangering the clinic...”
“I realized that,” I said, thinking of the graffiti.
“They were shadowrunners,” she explained. “And hurt shadowrunners usually mean corporate security that doesn’t care who’s in the crossfire.”
I think I stared at her for quite a while as I digested, or tried to digest what she was telling me. Shadowrunners was not the sort of thing you said so nonchalantly back home. It was something that was whispered if spoken at all. Finally I nodded.
“I thought you refused because... “
“Because they were metahuman?”
I nodded, knowing not only how badly I’d judged her, but how wrong I was.
She started laughing. “No wonder you looked at me like that.” Finally she shook her head and sighed.
“Well, I realized that I never saw any at the clinic until that night.” I think I was grabbing at straws to retain some dignity.
“There aren’t that many in the neighborhood,” she finally told me. “I think we’ve got two trolls and a few dwarves, that’s about it. They tend to only come out at night, when the hate mongers are usually safely tucked away.”
“Seems I owe you an apology,” I sighed.
“And I owe you one for what my father did,” she countered.
Its like I said before, things are seldom as they seem.
I stopped by the temporary clinic Trina had setup at the diner to check on things. After three days recovering from the incident, I was ready to do something, but things weren’t too busy.
As it is the neighbors have been pitching in to get the clinic rebuilt and restocked, the neighbors, the merchants, even the gang.
I noticed them last night and from the looks of things they’ve stepped up their patrols. I’m not sure if it’s the desire to protect the neighborhood or just a case of nobody picks on my brother but me. It doesn’t really matter right now.
Since Trina didn’t need me, I figured on reporting to the main office and then stopping by the station and introducing myself. I’m not required to be there until Friday, but there’s always paperwork to fill out and lines to stand in. I figured I might as well get an early start.
When I stopped by Citywide’s main office and dispatch my time was spent equally between the two. Forms for employment, employment contracts, drug screening, preliminary psych profiles, id cards, uniforms, panic buttons, each item on the list seemed to involve its own unique line. Even when I was the only person being processed, they had to have a line, and I had to wait.
I arrived at the station house I’d be working from-- 97th fire district. I waited out in front of the Captain’s office and then the fun really began.
By that time it was 5 p.m.: shift change. I was sitting there when the captain walked by and reached for the door. He turned and looked at me and then nodded at the door. “You’re late,” he told me. “Not a good thing for a rookie to be...”
I was about to object when the alarm sounded. Everyone froze as the dispatcher gave the specifics. It was a heart attack, in the heart of our district, and in the heart of the rush hour congestion. The ideal place and time NOT to have a medical emergency.
One of the medics rushed over. His eyes were fixed on the Captain, otherwise he’d have seen the amused smile on my face. It was Ray, a guy I dated in High School. A lifetime ago, I know, but he’s the one that got me into emergency medicine.
“Cap... that’s...” he started.
“I know... take the rookie and get over there as soon as you can,” he stated nodding at me.
Ray was busy shaking his head. “We’ll never get there in time. We NEED the bike...”
The Captain shrugged and shook his head. “You aren’t checked out on it.” he stated.
“He’s not, but I am,” I said evenly as I looked at him. Ray turned, looked at me
“Hey Jess,” he greeted me as if we’d just seen each other last week..
I smiled and looked at the Captain. “Jess Miller,” I introduced myself. “I’m your motorcycle medic from Baltimore.”
Although I didn’t say ‘Baltimore’, I used the proper pronunciation of ‘Balmer’ to emphasize the point that I was not from around here and definately not a rookie. I figure I’ll save the Balmorian pronunciation of 'Ambulance' for another time.
“You sure about this?” he asked, knowing I wasn’t due till Friday.
I smiled. “From the looks of things, you’re a medic down and I don’t think this guy can wait till I’m supposed to be here.”
That got me a smile from the Captain, and then a, “well, what are you still doing here?”
I got my radio designation and was rolling. It wasn’t what I planned, but that seems to be the story of my life. I got there and started CPR and managed to keep him going until the ambulance could get there about 20 minutes later.
I finished up the paperwork for the run at the hospital and returned the bike to the station. The rookie, who just graduated from the EMT classes never showed, having taken a cleaner job at the Renraku Archology. I wish her luck, but she’s got a lot to learn about protocol.
I ended up staying at the station for till about 12, then heading home. Since they’re a medic down, my schedule’s been changed: I start work tomorrow.