Feb 13th 2017, 20:12
“Wait a bit,” Maria said, “those are not yet done.”
“How long,” John asked.
“About ten minutes more,” she replied, “why don’t you go and check if they need more beer.”
John laughed and went back to the living room. Maria had done a couple of night shifts at the station and now she had two days off. She had invited some of her racing friends over and made some food. It would be quite fun and they loved her cooking. When they were out racing, she was always in charge of the food. She liked cooking and her food was simply better than what the others who tried it could make. This night she had opted for something simple. A catfish filet, grilled, with sweet potatoes, all in a mint-tomatoe sauce, the recipe of which she got from her foster mother.
Ten minutes later they were all at the table, enjoying a simple meal amongst friends.
“So, John,” Maria said, “will you be racing your new Nissan next week?”
“Probably not,” he replied, “I still need to install the NOS and I don’t have the tanks yet. DHL is late with its delivery.”
“I told you to get them from that other website,” Maria said with a grin.
“Well, I can still drive the Supra,” John said.
“I thought you sold that one,” Maria remarked.
“Not yet,” he replied, “the last buyer had trouble getting the money cleared, so for now it still is mine.”
“Good for you, but my Evo is faster,” she grinned.
“This stuff is good,” one of the others said, “I could eat here every day.”
“Sure, but then I’ll start charging you for it,” Maria remarked.
“You should start a restaurant,” a third said, “this is better than most restaurants serve.”
“Nah, I’ll stay a firefighter,” she said, “that way I can tinker on the trucks and follow courses in mechanics on company time.”
“They can’t teach you anything you don’t know already,” John said.
“There still is a lot to learn,” Maria simply said.
They continued eating and talking and it took until about 3am before they all went home. Maria didn’t mind all that much, as she had tomorrow off anyway.
Feb 14th 2017, 6:50
Maria awoke to an incessant beeping.
“Oh my god,” she groaned as she saw how late it was. The beeping continued and it took a while to register that it was her pager.
“What the …,” she groaned as she noticed the code for general alert. She pulled herself out of bed, got dressed in the dark and went outside to her motorcycle. She hoped she would get awake through the wind while driving to the station. Luckily it wasn’t all that far.
When she arrived there, she parked the bike next to the station and walked in, right into the chaos. None of the vehicles were inside, but there were several firefighters.
“What’s going on,” she asked the first other firefighter she saw.
“There’s some sort of global eclipse,” he replied, “there have been 911 calls all over the place.”
Maria looked outside and it was still dark, as it always was at this time, but there was also no moon or stars, which she had thought was due to clouds.
“Johnson,” the lieutenant in charge of the station called out, “we’re getting the 102 and a pick-up truck from the reserves. You’re probably fastest with your motorcycle. Get changed, take Reginald to drive the pick-up and get them back here ASAP.”
“Yes, sir,” Maria said, turning to the other firefighter, “come on, you can ride on the back.”
She quickly changed in her uniform and then went back to her bike with Reginald. As soon as he was behind her, she left the fire station 10, heading towards the main depot where the reserve vehicles were kept. She weaved the bike in between stopped cars, of which there were quite a few in this rush hour traffic. It was only a about five miles and they quickly arrived in yet another chaos. She drove immediately towards the reserve vehicle yard, but there she was stopped by a police officer.
“Where do you think you’re going,” he asked.
“We’re from station 10,” Maria said, “we’re here to pick up some reserve vehicles assigned to our station.”
“Everybody can say that,” the cop replied, “let’s show some id.”
Maria was about to explode, when a firefighting sergeant arrived with a clipboard.
“Johnson,” he said, “what are you doing here?”
“Picking up the 102 and a pick-up, sarge,” she replied, “our lieutenant told me and Reginald to come here as they were assigned to station 10.”
“That’s correct,” the sergeant said after looking on his clipboard, “you know the way?”
“Yep,” she replied, goosing up the engine on the bike, which made the cop jump out of the way before she accelerated into the yard. She quickly located the fire truck and pointed Reginald to the Ford F550 standing next to it.
“Help me get my bike in the back of the Ford,” she said. Together they got the bike in the back of the pick-up truck, before Reginald got in and quickly started the engine. She ran towards her truck, got in as well and quickly checked it out. As it was a reserve truck, it was older than the ones they currently used, but it was still serviced regularly and it should be good to go. She turned the key and the engine rumbled to life. She noticed that there was no water in the tank in the back, but that could be solved at the station. As Reginald moved out, she followed. The cop opened the barrier to let the two vehicles pass through. As she passed him, she put on the siren for a few seconds and then turned it off again.
“That’s Maria Johnson,” the sergeant on duty said to the cop, a smile on his face, “she’s the daughter of lieutenant Johnson. He got wounded in an accident in 2009. His daughter has the makings of a great firefighter, if she learns a bit more control.”
The two vehicles moved on and they used the sirens from time to time to get people to move out of their way, while Maria switched the station’s frequency on the radio to call ahead that they would need to fill up the water tank. The rest should be okay. Soon they pulled up at the station. A couple of hoses were already waiting and Maria parked the truck next to them so it could be filled up, while other firefighters opened the various compartments to make sure all equipment was there, while Maria parked her bike back next to the station. Soon the rest of the squad boarded the truck and they moved out.
Feb 14th 2017, 9:25
“102, this is dispatch, we have a 10-48 on the corner of east 21st and North Oliver. EMTs and police is on the way.”
“Copy dispatch,” the squad sergeant said in the radio, “we’re on our way.”
They had just finished at one accident and now they were called to another, although this time with a person injured. Without being told, Maria engaged the siren and lights and moved towards the indicated location. They weren’t all that far and five minutes later they arrived on scene. Maria parked the truck so that it blocked the accident from the rest of the crossing. This was both to stop rubberneckers from seeing it as well to protect the squad from another idiot hitting them. The cars were not on fire, so they wouldn’t need the hoses this time, but it was quickly clear that they would have to cut both open before they could get the drivers out.
Maria quickly attached the claw to the truck’s pressurised air system, while another firefighter moved towards the car with the cutting end. This was something they had done before and they moved quickly. By the time the ambulance arrived, they had the first driver out of the car and were working on the second one. A police car arrived not much later and quickly called for a tow truck to get the wrecks out of the way.
“Maria, come and help me with this,” one of the others called out. She rushed over and together they moved the second car’s roof out of the way. Now the EMTs could start on the second person. This person was still conscious and was shouting something about the end of the world. Maria paid her no heed, but she did find the darkness a bit depressing. It should be light by now, but for some reason it still wasn’t. But with her short night and all the work, she didn’t have much time to think about it. Besides, the fire trucks had enough lights to turn any night in bright daylight.
Feb 14th 2017, 13:12
“Code 3 in progress on South Topeka Street, River Walk apartments,” the lieutenant shouted to the squad. They had just pulled in the station for a short break, but apparently it wasn’t about to be.
“They need more trucks,” he added, “you guys are one of the few not occupied at the moment, so go. I’ll follow with the F550.”
They rushed to their truck and with the lights and sirens going, they quickly moved towards the location. It was not in their normal area, but now a big fire in an apartment always needed extra people. Luckily by now most people had heard that the government asked them to stay indoors and they seemed to be doing that for the most part, so progress was quick.
As they arrived they only saw one other truck and a pick-up. Clearly there was a big shortage of people, as normally the first response should be twice this. Well, there was no helping it. Maria parked the truck near the fire hydrant so they would have enough water and they all jumped out. While they were tired, they were well trained in the first tasks that needed to be done, so Maria quickly connected the truck to the hydrant while others in her squad hooked hoses to the truck and the sergeant ran to the squads already there to check with them. Quickly Maria had the ladder out so they could spray water from above.
While the squad was trying to put out the flames, or at least make sure they didn’t spread, Maria was at the truck checking to make sure everything continued to work on the older truck. Suddenly a woman ran up to her.
“My baby,” she shouted, “he’s still inside.”
“What,” Maria said. Normally the other crews should have checked that out.
“My baby,” the woman kept repeating.
“Where,” Maria asked as she opened the compartment in the truck where the breathing apparatus were kept.
“Second floor, left apartment,” the woman said, as Maria put on the air tank, the mask and with practice opened up the tank. Her uniform was designed to keep her safe, as was her helmet.
The sergeant saw what she was doing and came over.
“What’s going on,” he asked.
“There’s a child still in the building,” Maria said, “I’m going in.”
“Be careful,” the sergeant said, “I’m sending someone right behind you.”
Maria nodded, grabbed a fire-axe and ran towards the building. One of the guys saw her running and turned his spray so she got wet, giving an added measure of protection for a small amount of time.
She entered the building through the front door and quickly made her way up the stairs to the second floor.
“I’m in,” she said over the radio build into her mask, “there’s a lot of smoke, but so far nothing is blocked.”
“Be careful,” she heard the voice of the lieutenant, who had arrived in the meantime. She acknowledged and moved on. On the second floor, she was met by even more smoke and flames. But she moved on, using her agility to avoid the worst of the flames in order to continue to the apartment.
A couple of hits with the axe destroyed the lock on the door and Maria moved in. There were some flames against the wall, but mostly it was a lot of smoke. She looked around and heard some coughing and crying. Moving to the bedroom, she spotted a bed with a toddler in it.
“Maria, it’s gonna come down,” she heard over the comms.
She just grabbed the child when the groaning of the beams turned into a cracking sound. Instinctively she covered the child with her own body, hoping the air tank and the helmet would protect her from the falling beams.
Outside the fire fighters could only watch as the apartment came down in a shower of flame. They heard the scream of their colleague, while both the lieutenant and the sergeant wondered what they were going to say to her parents. After about fifteen seconds the screaming stopped and someone… something came out of the flames. The thing still wore the remains of a fire-fighter jacket, the mask and air tank, but it also had wings… And wheels instead of feet… And the things arms were glowing red. In its arms it carried a small bundle, which it put on the ground in front of the fire fighters, who moved back and held their hoses as if they were guns. Then it turned away and ran… drove off, at a speed no person could match. The fire fighters moved in and checked the bundle, seeing it was the child. It was quickly moved towards the waiting ambulance.
Feb 15th 2017, 8:15
Maria awoke, looking around her. She was in the barn where she kept her car, her bike and most of her tools to work on either. She was still wearing the remains of her fire fighter’s uniform and when she looked at her arms and legs, they looked slightly sunburned. One thing that only now registered was the sun coming through the open garage door. Thinking back about the day before, slowly the memories returned and she wondered what had happened with her. She had somehow survived the collapse of the building and transformed into something… some monster or other. Now she started to wonder what she was going to tell at the station.
First of all she went back to her house to take a shower and change clothes. As her bike was still at the station, she walked there, carrying the remains of her uniform in a backpack. As she arrived, she noted that most people avoided looking in her eyes. Stories had probably already done the rounds.
The lieutenant was still there.
“Johnson,” he said, “what happened to you?”
“I got out at the last moment,” Maria said, having thought about it, “but on the other side. An ambulance there brought me to the hospital for a check-up. Didn’t they tell you?”
“No, they didn’t,” the lieutenant said.
“They told me they had,” Maria said, “well, there was a lot of chaos that night. Probably a communications foul-up.”
“Probably,” the lieutenant said, not wanting to speak about the creature he had seen, “how are you?”
“I’m fine,” she replied, “just some minor burns. My helmet and tank took the brunt of the hits. My uniform is destroyed though. Do they already know what the issue was with the sun disappearing?”
“Not that I have heard,” he replied, “at least nothing solid. There are more than enough theories though.”
“I assumed as much,” she replied, “what now?”
“You go back home,” he said, “we’re back to regular shifts and I’ll leave you off for two days so you can recover fully. I’ll also ask the shrink at HQ to have a talk with you.”
“Do I really have to, sir,” she asked.
“Yes, you have to,” he said, “you’ve been in a collapsed burning building. A psych evaluation is mandatory. But it can wait until you’re back. I’ll have the appointment details in two days.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, not knowing what else to say.
“Now, off with you,” he said, “and we’ll see you back in two days.”
“Yes, sir,” she said again.
She left the building, took her bike and drove back home. She wasn’t sure what was to happen now.