Monday's Child Excerpt
11. Pacific Ocean Bridge Fire Battalion 12
Embre Vana bounced in the passenger seat of the Locke and Keye Studio’s Fire Battalion 12 SUV, twisting her long red, orange, and yellow hair into a bun, before securing it with elastic bands behind her head.
“County Fire is already on scene and reports are the driver is still trapped in the cab. They don’t know if he’s alive or not. The fire is too hot for them to get close enough from the road and the brush fire is preventing access from the other side,” Nuit stated, driving the large red vehicle out of one of the studio’s emergency exit, onto California State Highway 5.
“When we get to the scene,” she added racing around the cars on the road, pulling over to allow the flashing red lights, and screaming siren, of a fast moving small utility truck to pass them by, “I’ll try and park where no-one can see you get out. You get the driver and I’ll take care of the distractions,” Nuit directed glancing over at the twenty-something pale Asian woman.
“Ok,” Embre nodded, working one arm into the oversized heavy, cumbersome, kaki colored, bright reflective striped Kevlar and Nomex coat, leaning into Nuit’s aggressive turn as she asked, “Any word on who’s the incident commander is?”
Nuit nodded, “Yes, Operations said Captain Scott called asking for your special talents. I think she just wants to see you again,” Nuit snickered playfully.
“She’s too old for me,” Embre replied, honestly, “Besides, I’m not into married women.”
Nuit nodded with a smirk, before she announced, “There she is. I’m going to park behind the Quint; you jump out and do your thing while I check in with Captain Scott.”
Embre secured the black composite helmet over her head, pulling down the custom tinted face shield. The moment she felt Nuit applying the breaks, she pulled the door release handle. When the Chevrolet Suburban’s forward motion stopped, Embre was out the door.
Not looking back to check on Nuit, Embre used one arm to hold herself up as her body arched over the guardrail, then she almost tumbled down the steep embankment.
Racing toward the column of black smoke billowing into the morning sky, she stopped to survey the situation.
In front of her, and slightly elevated above the gully she was in, Embre could see a fuel fed fire surrounded the cab of the tractor-trailer. The front of the vehicle appeared to be intact, but lying on its side. Moving closer, she felt, more than saw water droplets raining down from the other side of the inferno launched into the air from behind the truck.
Slowly climbing up the small, but steep slope, Embre stopped just below the road to take another quick look around. She couldn’t see any other firefighters as they were focusing on the tanker itself and the heat was too intense around the cab itself for them to approach; but it wasn’t for her.
She pulled herself up onto the roadway, confident the fire blocked her actions from the others. Looking up at the front of the cab she could see arm of the driver dangling limply through the sideways steering wheel behind the two meter high flames.
Casually walking through the road melting waves of heat, and dense black smoke, she approached the cab wondering how she was going to get the driver out safely.
Stopping halfway through the inferno, Embre closed her eyes, soaking in the warmth of the thousand degree fire, savoring how enjoyable and relaxing it felt to her sore joints and bones; especially her bare feet.
The nearly constant aching and abrasive feeling she always felt when her limbs moved, when not warm, or super-heated as they were now, vanished for a moment. Embre extended that moment unbuttoning the top three tabs of the heavy coat around her, allowing the intense heat to kiss and caress more of her body.
The open coat also provided her a little more freedom of movement, which Embre used to her advantage, quickly climbing the steaming hot exterior of the sideways cab.
Fortunately the driver’s side window was open, and, unburdened by an unnecessary air tank, Embre was able to lower herself into the cab easily.
There she found the single driver contorted into an odd shape with his hand twisted in, and around, the steering wheel; his arm holding the man’s body in mid-air. She almost, but didn’t scream when she felt his other hand on her shoulder; then heard him cough several times.
Squatting down she lied loudly, “Keep your eyes closed or the smoke will burn them,” then announced, “I’m going to get you out of here, but you need to do exactly what I tell you; do you understand?”
The man nodded his head, muttering, “Si Senora.”
“Senorita,” Embre replied, more to herself than him, as she wrapped her arms around him, struggling to lift him up, freeing his trapped arm.
The man cried out in pain bringing Embre’s attention to his broken arm after freeing it from inside the circle of the steering wheel.
Carefully lifting his limp appendage until he could hold it with his other arm, she worked the moaning man into a seated position in the sideways cab.
Standing up she took a few deep breaths of the smoke-filled air, enjoying the burnt bar-b-que flavor in her mouth, but not the gasoline aftertaste; or the irritating melted rubber and plastic aroma in her sinuses.
Watching the fire dancing outside, through the smoke and flame blackened windshield, she tried to figure out how she was going to save the driver and not expose herself.