MANDY: "Pick Up the Axe"
"You gotta pick up the axe, Brian. The building's still on fire."
Her radio crackled as she moved along the smoky corridor. Sweat beaded down her skin, making streaks along her cheeks, and her gloves were slick with it. Red and yellow light flickered everywhere deeply cloaked by the foul black smoke. Amanda Smith was finally in her element. It was a four alarm box fire; all the registered inhabitants of the office building were gone for the day. It was late enough that even the office cleaning staff was out. Strange that the fire seemed to start in the head office, in a trash can that was just "cleaned" out. She held her fire axe in front of her by its head, tapping the floor for weak spots. Mandy listened for any unusual sound that she could hear over the sound of her own breathing apparatus and the crackling of the fire. The wood was still solid, the consuming flames not even close to this part of the building. She felt more than heard the tapping against the metal water pipes. She stopped, freezing in place and holding her breath. She could just make out the sound, "Help. Cough. Cough. Please, Help." Mandy grabbed her flashlight off the shoulder of her yellow fire coat and scanned the area around her. She saw the glint of the reflected beam next to a collapsed wall. A young woman was lying on the carpet, just below the smoke. Her blouse was torn and bloody and her legs disappeared under the debris of the broken structure. She gestured frantically to the fire fighter. "Oh thank God!" she smiled at the form moving out of the smoke and distant flame toward her. "Please help me, I was working late. I saw what happened but I can't get out from under this wall." Lieutenant Smith raised a hand to signal that she could see the prone woman, "Don't move, you could make this worse. Sit still until I get to you and then we can get you out." She moved carefully toward the fallen divider and took a close look at where the woman's legs vanished underneath it. Blood pooled and slowly oozed from the jagged broken pieces of wood that had once formed the inner structure of the wall. Mandy could easily see where the slates that had supported the drywall had sliced like blades into the woman's flesh. Both legs were crushed, broken and loosing precious blood. The fire fighter looked back into the wide eyes of the girl, noting that this woman was barely into her twenties. Moving to shield the damage from the woman's gaze, she lifted the plastic shield that protected her eyes and moved the flame retardant cotton mask off her face. "Don't do anything to move those legs, miss. I need to make sure we can get you out without collapsing this area any further. Do you feel anything below your knees?" The woman shook her head, "No, why?" her voice rising in fear. "Well, you have gotten yourself caught. Let me contact my Chief." Mandy reached up with her free hand and touched the call button on her two-way radio. "Captain, Smith here. Get rescue up here to the 3rd floor." "Copy that, Smith. Rescue on the way. How many should we plan for down here?" "One, Chief. One Survivor." "…survivors are unique members of our community that have survived the attack on New York in September eleventh, two thousand and one." CLICK Mandy turned off the plasma TV and contemplated throwing a boot at it. She substituted a teddy bear that Beth had left on the couch. That was still satisfying but not as costly or painful for the TV. She stretched and felt her back snap. It was so weird to feel the muscles work but live in a basically numb metal shell. She moved off the couch and started to clean up the apartment, Beth was fun as a roommate but rather hard on the furniture. Empty bowls that once contained cereal and oatmeal had gathered on the coffee table before the couch, each with its own Disney spoon. Mandy would have to do the dishes if Beth was going to eat with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, or Goofy tomorrow. Chuckling, she headed off to the kitchen, the picture of domestic bliss. She started the `washer and grabbed up the paper. Survivor news was scattered all over the front page. A few more with super powers had made a splash in the media's eyes. A water manipulator saved a small child from drowning in a pond, and, of course, Milos was making noise about the Tom Something case. "Damn grandstander," she mumbled under her breath. "Go back to being a piece of pond scum why don't you?" Mandy gruffly flipped to the funny pages, finding that to be MUCH less annoying than the bull they printed as legitimate news. She settled into the couch and reminisced about the fire and a woman named Lisa. Lisa blinked as smoke rolled lower and she looked at Mandy's face. "Are they coming?" "Yeah. Just sit still here and let me look around." She suited action to word and moved to look at the fallen wall. There must have been an explosion or concussive blast to knock the half height wall over. Gingerly, the fire fighter picked at the splintered wood, looking searching for a hard point to hopefully move the mass away from the stricken woman. "Um, Ma'am?" the shaky voice of her rescue sounded faint and scared. "I can't feel my legs." She sniffed, trying desperately to remain calm and nearly failing. Mandy turned from the wreckage and looked at the woman, compassion filling her face. She moved over to Lisa and grabbed her hands, "Stay with me, Ok? You're gonna be just fine. Tell me about yourself while we wait for the Medics." She looked into the large blue eyes and listened. "I'm a dancer. I only work as a secretary to make the rent while I train for the theater." She looked down where her legs were buried, "Do you think I'll ever dance again?" she whispered, her hands clutched against the flame resistant gloves Mandy wore. Mandy looked at the damage, honestly, there was no way. Concrete and wood had made a mess of the woman's legs; it would take a miracle to save them. The fire fighter poised on the crux of a dilemma, she could lie and reassure the woman. Or, she could tell the truth and dash her will before they could even start a rescue. "Please, just tell me the truth. What am I looking at?" Mandy's brow furrowed with concentration. She opened her mouth to answer when her radio beeped. "Smith. Chief here." With relief she held up a finger to Lisa and with the other hand she triggered the hand set. "Here, Chief. Go ahead." "The fire's moved to block the normal roots to your position. The wing you're in is safe, but we can't get to you through roof or ground. Can you move the survivor?" "Negative, Chief. Patient is trapped, but stable and conscious. I need more hands with this one." "You don't have it. Do what you have to." "Copy." Mandy sighed and turned to the woman on the floor. "Well, it's just you and me." She smiled, "Know any good card games?"