Monday's Child Excerpt

09

FIRE BATTALION 12

Pacific Ocean Bridge


Symbre’s darker skinned twin sister, Brande, bounced in the passenger seat of Locke and Keye Studio’s Fire Battalion 12. Reaching up, twisting her long red, orange, and yellow hair into a bun, before securing it with elastic bands behind her head as the Chevrolet Suburban eSUV sped through the Studio’s back lot.

“When we get to the scene,” Lilith’s childishly excited voice suggested, raising her voice over the screaming siren, “I’ll park where no-one can see you get out.” Driving on to the soft shoulder to get around stalled traffic, Lilith continued giving orders, “You take care of the driver, and I’ll create a few distractions if necessary to hide what you’re doing.”

Lilith then focused on the narrow shoulder ahead, doing her best to ignore the flashing red lights reflected back at her from the cars next to them. She quickly glanced over at the twenty-one-year-old Asian woman who nodded her understanding.

“Watch out!” Brande shouted, pointing forward, redirecting Lilith’s attention to the narrow path ahead as she worked one arm into an oversized khaki colored Kevlar and Nomex coat.

Lilith cut through an opening in the traffic, forcing Brande to lean into Lilith’s aggressive turn as she asked, “Is Barbara going to be there?”

Lilith nodded, “Captain Tyson called Tony while I was in his office asking for your special talents, then paused before snickering playfully, “I think she just wants to see you again.”

“She’s too old for me,” Brande replied, honestly, “Besides, I’m not into dating my boss’ sister-in-law.”

Lilith chuckled, “I meant in action, not romantically,” before she pointed with her finger on the steering wheel, “There she is. I’m going to park behind the Quint; you jump out and do your thing while I check in with Barbara and help her keep the fire crews away from you. Tony’s sending over a film crew… they can cover for you, or create a distraction too if you need one.”

Brande secured the black composite helmet over her head, pulling down the one-way tinted face shield. The moment she felt Lilith applying the brakes, she unlocked, then pulled the door’s release handle. By the time the Suburban’s forward motion stopped, Brande was already out the door.

Not looking back to check on Lilith, Brande used one arm to hold herself up as her body arched over the rusted metal guardrail; holding on to the curved railing to prevent herself from tumbling down the embankment.

Racing along the metal road edging, toward the column of black smoke billowing into the sky, she stopped and squatted down for a moment to survey the situation.

In front of her, Brande could see the fuel fed fire had surrounded the cab of the tractor-trailer and spread to the uncut dry wild grass in the stormwater runoff.

The front of the vehicle appeared mangled and twisted, but intact, lying on its side looking like roadkill with its eyes open, lifelessly staring beyond her. Hiding behind the guardrail, and the flames, she moved closer until she felt water droplets raining down from the other side of the gasoline-fueled inferno.

Hopping over the railing again, onto the stable roadbed, Brande stopped to make sure the firefighters were focusing on the tanker itself, and not the cab; hoping the heat was too intense for them to approach; too hot for them, but not for her.

She raced across the open roadway, confident the fire blocked her actions from the fire crews. Looking through the smoke-discolored windows, she could see the arm of the driver dangling limply through the sideways steering wheel.

Comfortably walking through the road melting waves of heat and the dense black smoke, she approached the cab wondering how she was going to get the driver out safely.

Stopping halfway through the hottest part of the flames blocking the professional firefighters from getting close to the cab, Brande closed her eyes for a moment, soaking in the warmth of the thousand-degree fire, savoring how soothing 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. Brande extended that moment unbuttoning the top three tabs of the heavy coat around her, allowing the intense hotness to flow up and through the fireproof garment caressing, more of her body.

The open buttons also provided her a little more freedom of movement, which Brande used to her advantage, quickly climbing the steaming hot bottom of the sideways cab. Before going any further, she waited a moment for the wind to shift, moving the smoking column between her and the fire crews. Seizing her opportunity, she scrambled on top of the front wheel to find the driver’s side window was open. Unburdened by an unnecessary air tank, Brande was able to quickly lower herself into the cab while the smoke and steam hid her from the others.

Inside she found the single driver contorted into an odd shape with his arm twisted in, and around, the steering wheel; dangling his unmoving body over the passenger door.

She stifled a screamed when she felt his other hand on her shoulder; then she heard him cough several times. Squatting down to align her head with his, and pushing her shoulder under his unbroken arm, she lied loudly, “Keep your eyes closed or the smoke will burn them,” then offered the man some hope, “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, coughing, “Si Senora.”

“Senorita,” Brande replied, more to herself than him, as she wrapped herself around his chest, struggling to lift him up, freeing his twisted arm.

The man cried out, reminding Brande his arm was in fact broken before she carefully worked to free it from inside the circle of the steering wheel.

Gently easing his limp appendage through the steering wheel until he could hold it with his other arm, she guided the pained man into a swatted position in the back corner of the sideways, cab.

Standing up, she turned around, facing the blacken windshield. Taking a few deep breaths of the smoke-infused air, enjoying the burnt bar-b-que flavor in her mouth, she smiled for a moment until the gasoline aftertaste kicked in, followed quickly by an irritating melted rubber and horrid plastic aroma in her sinuses.

Watching the fire dancing outside, through the smoke and flame fogged windshield, she began to work out how she was going to save the driver and not expose herself to the fire crews, or the news media.