Nate headed across to the dispatches desk, which now only had one woman behind it. Guess they're running it from somewhere else now. He took that as a good sign, it meant that the organization was improving. It never occurred to him that maybe they'd only switched to another one after the people at this one were too tired to continue.
He joined the queue of people who were trying to get messages to people outside or who were waiting for a message from outside. Whilst he stood there, he did another check of the people in the lobby, and even peered through the glass of the sliding doors; looking at those outside. He glanced round the room again and noticed that Jess had curled up into an uncomfortable looking ball in her chair and had fallen asleep.
Eventually he reached to front of queue and asked if there had been any messages for him. No, as far as anyone knew, she was still on her way here.
Seeing his frustrated expression, the woman behind the desk started lecturing him on how difficult it was to get messages to people, or even LOCATE individuals whilst the power was done. Nate listened as patiently as he was able, then joined the slightly longer queue for the vending machines.
In an effort to distract himself from his growing frustration and unease at not knowing if Alicia was ok, he listened in on the conversations going on around him.
A couple of Orks loitering near the door were muttering about how racial hate crimes were on the rise with the power down. They were worried about getting home intact.
Oh boy, thought Nathan. The last thing we need right now is a race riot. Communications are down, services are past breaking point. Especially when my girlfriend is one of the odder metas, hope she doesn't get caught up in anything. Somebody might get hurt. Nate smiled to himself. Most likely anyone who was dumb enough to attack her.
A couple of doctors were in the queue in front of him, talking about how busy things had got.
'…getting harder for the emergency crews to reach victims and bring them in. And look at that! Eight hours and the damn medics are already giving up!' The doctor gestured to where Jess was curled up asleep in her chair
Nate edged forward slightly and listened
The speakers companion frowned at him. 'Come on, Fredricks. This is like her third shift.'
Fredricks merely smiled. Yeah, hard workers aren’t they? All she does is drive a damn ambulance…'
Fredricks companion just sighed and took his turn at the coffee machine.
Nate decided that since the prosecution was still going strong, he'd better take over the defense. 'That’s not true, you know.'
Fredricks turned around very slowly to regard the person who'd spoken. Nathan looked back calmly.
'She don't just drive people.'
Fredricks rolled his eyes in a way that made it clear what he thought about civilians opinions. He decided to try and educate this student kid with the dressing on his head.
'They just get good press, I mean look at her! She's catching a nap and we're still going. They might administer first aid, but its us' He thumbed his chest 'here that do the real work.'
Nate played his trump card. 'She pulled me out of a train wreck earlier today.'
Fredricks shook his head. 'No, THAT was fire rescue. I bet the medics were hanging back with the coffee and doughnuts, right Franklyn?' He turned grinning to his colleague expecting to get a laugh. Franklyn merely sipped at his coffee, refusing to be drawn in.
'The train had over turned. She crawled through a gap between the train and the tunnel roof to get to me.'
Fredricks glanced toward Jess, disbelief evident on his face. 'Her? Come off it.' Franklyn quietly passed him a cup of coffee, with a look that said 'I told you so'
Nate nodded. 'Me and a bunch of others were trapped inside one of the overturned carriages. She squeezed through the gap 'tween the train and the tunnel roof to get in. She was inside treating people whilst the fire crews were still cutting their way in.
Fredricks was beginning to look more and more uncomfortable with the situation, with a muttered 'Whatever…' he pushed his way past and fled back through the doors to emergency
Franklyn watched him leave. He shook his head. 'You'll have to forgive him, he's led a rather sheltered life.' He stood aside to let Nate get his turn at the machine
Nate smiled as he inserted his coins. 'No problem. And I ain't knocking what you guys do here.'
'We do what we can... but if they don't get here in time...' Franklyn shook his head.
'Yeah, you guys need them as bad as they need you.' He examined the array of drinks and snacks the machine offered. 'This thing do Twinkies?'
Franklyn pointed at one of the buttons. 'Yeah, we're a team, the medics and the docs. Fredricks hasn't quite got his head round that yet. The medics aren’t real lifesavers in his world… just glorified chauffeurs.'
Nate shrugged as he waited for his Twinkie and coffee. 'We all start somewhere. I used to think Mages were just Adepts that could use a calculator. He grinned as he picked his coffee out of the slot.
Franklyn smiled. 'What changed your opinion?'
'I started dating one, a mage that is. ' Nate frowned at the machine. 'Soon learnt the difference. Where's my Twinkie?'
Franklyn shrugged. 'No idea. It's doing that to me all the time. Fredricks will get a wake up call at some point... hopefully it won't be too rude... but sometimes-- I wish it would be.'
Nate shrugged. 'Guess we'll have to wait and see.' He banged on the machine. 'Give me my Twinkie, damnit!'
Franklyn looked round as another gurney and pair of medics came rattling into the lobby. 'Ah well, looks like I'm on.'
Nate paused in his assault on the machine and looked up, just in time to miss his candy bar dropping out of its slot and onto the floor. 'OK, have a good one.'
Franklyn smiled before rushing off, drinking his coffee hurriedly as he caught up with the medics.
Nate watched him leave and returned his attention to the machine. He could have been there some time, but perhaps fortunately, someone pointed out where his candy bar had landed.
He had just retrieved the errant confectionery and was about to head for his seat, when the lights flickered in a horribly familiar way, there was a muffled explosive sound from somewhere and everything went black.
Nathan stopped dead. 'Awa…not again…'
He could hear similar complaints coming from the few people still in the lobby, and voices echoing up and down the corridors seemed to continue the theme.'What now?
Nate remembered that he still had Hugh's torch in his pocket. Holding his Twinkie and coffee in the same hand, he dug into his pockets. Least I'm not on a train this time. Very little chance of this hospital coming off the rails and crashing into the tunnel wall.
He flicked the torch on and flashed it around. It illuminated various people in the lobby, most of them caught in attitudes of surprise and disbelief. Then he wondered if Jess had even woken up. He aimed the torch toward her seat - which was empty.
'Jess?' He shone the torch round again. 'Jess Miller?'
The beam of the torch found her pressed against the wall at the end of the row of chairs. She looked away as soon as the beam fell on her, trying to hide her face. Nate immediately realized what had happened, and aimed the torch at her feet, to stop the others from seeing her expression.
He crossed the room quickly, and proffered the coffee. Jess accepted it, her hand trembling slightly.
Nate carefully ignored it.
She started to untense slightly. Her hands wrapped round the coffee cup, she looked round.
When she spoke, Nate could hear the slight edge in her voice, he was careful not to react to that either.
You tried to hide your face. You don’t want people to know how you're feeling.
'I think the emergency generator just blew.'
With help from Nates torch, she found her radio which had ended up on the floor. She flicked the switch and started talking.
'Central… M1-7…power out at…'
The voice at the other end sounded irritated. 'Miller, Dispatch. The power is out EVERYWHERE.'
Jess took a deep breath and sounded a bit calmer when she continued.
'Emergency generator blew at Harborview'
'What are you doing there?'
'Collapsing from exhaustion, dispatch.' She paused. 'Just get us a generator, ok?'
She flicked the radio back to standby and attached it to her belt.
'…we need… we need to get the battery backups running.'
Nate nodded. 'Ok, give me a moment.' He held the torch next to his head, level with his ear. He closed his eyes and frowned. When he let go of the torch it did not fall, but hung in the air next to his ear, moving with him, aiming at where ever he looked.
'Ok, where are we going then?'
Jess took a deep breath, it seemed to Nate that she was falling back on her training to stay in control.
'End of the hallway, locked supply cabinet. There's one on every floor. Batteries for the equipment, we'll need them to get this place running again.' She pulled a torch from her belt, adding to the illumination.
Nate gestured at the other people in the lobby. He grinned at Jess, not looking directly at her so that his torch wouldn’t dazzle her. 'I've got an idea, what say we conscript them?'
She nodded and Nate turned to face the room at large, he raised his voice. 'People, we need to get the emergency backups running, or someone's going to die. Could be someone you know. We've got to get this place running again.'
He turned to look at Jess, who was shooting far too many glances into dark corners for his comfort.
'Your safe.' He whispered.
Jess looked at him, then drew in a deep breath, the haunted look he had seen when they discussed the archology was back. 'I know…'
Hmmm, thought Nate. You don't sound convinced. 'Trust me, I will let nothing harm you.'
Jess closed her eyes and seemed to be struggling internally. When she opened them, she seemed if not calmer, then at least more in control.
That'll do for now. Nate relaxed slightly
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