"Dispatch this is Independent 147 out of the Redmond 908 clinic, I will be on the road in one minute. Over."
"Copy that 147. Advise when you're on the move. Out."
Considering the clinic was in Redmond it was surprising that they had an ambulance. Exactly what it had was less surprising, especially when you considered that the clinic was in Redmond.
The looting had started a while ago, now it was getting more violent, the sheer volume of traffic on the emergency band had convinced Jason to leave the clinic in the hands of Hank and Lisa and take the bus out on the road.
"…En route to University, will advise…"
"…Call me out of this for a moment would you…"
"…Route is not clear. I say again, heavy gang activity and looting, the road is blocked, this route is not clear…"
"Dispatch this Lone Star Badge 2837 I have two officers down at the site of the pile up and fire on Intercity Five. I need immediate medical assistance. I say again, two officers down at the site of the fire on I-5, immediate medical assistance." Every transmission carried with it background noise, some expected, some not; screams, burning cars and gunfire had almost become de-rigour for the dispatchers, they'd heard them so many times that night.
Sam McReedy scanned the screen in front of her, trying to wipe the tiredness from the corners of her eyes, she'd been due to finish her shift almost two hours ago. The blackout had left her relief stranded at home and Sam watching her screen and taking radio transmissions.
The icons on the monitor were depressing in themselves. So many calls, so many requiring multiple units… and so few units to send. On the plus side with the phones out, the exchanges needed power just like everything else, the cat up a tree calls were down.
"Dispatch; this is Independent 147 I'm up and rolling. Fully loaded and equipped for HazMat and medium threat response. Over."
"Received Independent 147, listing you in the system. Wait." Her fingers flew over the keys; inputting relevant data, "Inde-147, proceed immediately west, we have an incident on Intercity 5. You are now active."
As always the sensation as the jack slid against the chrome ring behind his ear sent a shiver down his spine and then through the fabric of his new body. In the same way as waking up it took a moment for Jason to check that everything was where it should be. Then, remembering the reason he was here, he gunned his engine, felt his tracks dig into the ferrocrete of the garage floor; a feeling not dissimilar to that of a runner setting his spikes. Triggering the transmitter was the act of a single tendril of thought, letting his brakes slip slowly he crawled towards the rising roller-shutter door. As the door rose he accelerated, blasting through the door with only inches to spare and exploding into the night.
"Dispatch this Lone Star Badge 2837, any E.T.A. on our medical support?" Lone Star badge 2837, also known as Officer Marcus White was hunkered down behind his cruiser as he tried to filter out the gunfire of his fellow officers and the trolls on the other side to try to make out the reply.
"Badge 2837 this is Dispatch; medical support is en route and should reach your position within the next five minutes." Five minutes, the engagement had already been in progress for more than half an hour, almost all of the officers were running low on ammunition, those who weren't had already exhausted their supplies. The darkness, the rain and the burning bikes between the lines meant that it had been a very ammunition intensive firefight.
"Five minutes everybody." White could tell that the news had the same effect on his comrades as it had had on him. Behind every cruiser he could see men sighing, ejecting the clips from their weapons to check their ammunition, slamming them back home with looks of resigned determination on their faces.
To think that all this had started because someone had stood up to a roving pack of troll bikers. A pile up of bikes and the fire which followed had brought the Spikes out in a full fledged war-party. Under normal circumstances Lone Star could have brought out S.W.A.T. with their tricked out Citymasters and heavy firepower; unfortunately these were not normal circumstances. In normal circumstances but lacking S.W.A.T. support the officers would simply try to limit the damage the trolls could create. But there were four civilian vehicles trapped between the lines of the trolls and the cruisers of the Star. Private enterprise law enforcement they may have been but they still did this job for all of the same reasons their predecessors had fifty, a hundred years ago and leaving civilians in the hands of the predatory troll go-gang wasn't among that list of reasons. White thumbed his last three rounds into the cruiser's shotgun and racked the slide to be ready for the next onslaught.
"Dispatch this is Inde-147, I am in sight of the fire. Could you link me to the officer on the scene? Over."
"Hold Inde-147, connecting you to Officer White on the scene."
"Thank you Dispatch, Inde-147 out." Jason was running the interstate along the median, avoiding the stalled late rush-hour traffic abandoned across every lane as the radio clicked with the frequency change. "Officer White, Officer White this is Independent 147 inbound on your position. Over." He waited a moment before transmitting again. "Lone Star Officer White this is Inde-147 inbound on your position. Over."
"Inde-147," the relief he felt was evident in White's voice; medical support would mean that the four officers helping and covering the wounded would be freed up to rejoin the line, "this is Lone Star Badge 2837 receiving. Over."
"Badge 2837 can you give me a sit-rep? I am in sight of your location, E.T.A. one minute. Over." Jason couldn't in fact see anything, his meat was slumped in the cab of the Citymaster, instead he reached out with the vehicle's sensors - taking in every aspect of the road.
"We have three officers down, two stable, one critical. We are pinned down and under fire and we have an unknown number of civilians pinned down between the lines. Over."
"Direction you're facing Officer White? Over."
"Lone Star cordon is south of the accident scene. Over." Marcus was confused for a moment, of course the cordon was south of the scene. Then it occurred to him, normally the medical support would be coming from one of the downtown hospitals, but with the Blackout - it was strange how the word had already been capitalised - the downtown hospitals would be swamped. This ambulance could be coming from any one of the hospitals or ambulance equipped clinics in the 'plex. It could be coming south from Bellevue, Everett, Snohomish or Redmond, if it was it was coming down on the wrong side.
"Badge 2837 do you have a cordon across the median strip?"
"Confirmed Inde-147, we have cruisers on both sides."
"Are any of the civilian vehicles in the centre lanes and the median occupied? Over."
"Hold a moment 147 checking." White looked away from the radio and shouted down the line, "Borowski! I need you to check those cars on the centre lane! Are any of the cars near the median occupied?" He could see Borowski easing himself up to see through the shattered windows of his cruiser, the wait was interminable. It took Borowski at least ten seconds to assess the vehicles in question, when he looked back to White and shook his head the officer in charge's fingers squeezed the send button on the radio almost without him having to think about it. "Inde-147, the vehicles are empty. Over."
"Can you clear your cruiser from the southbound side, I am ten seconds out, if you can't clear by then clear your people away. Inde-147 out." White looked across to the officers on the other side of the interstate, leaning toward them he called out.
"Move! Clear the median!" As officers scrambled clear the ambulance arrived…
The Spikes were the first to see it, they cleared out of its path with only the briefest fire in resistance. Blaring his horn and wincing at the impact of the bullets on his heavy kevlite hide Jason powered on, crashing through the Spikes' cordon of bikes, smashing into the first car in his path. The impacts felt like blows to his chest and face, they were the blows of flies however, well below the tolerance which would actually cause his steel body pain. The heavy, reinforced nose of the Citymaster cleared debris from the streets of the Barrens well enough, now it did the same with the empty vehicles blocking his path. The rear tracks dug into the asphalt as the ambulance bulled its way towards the Lone Star cordon.
As the heavy vehicle hammered the Lone Star cruiser aside the Spikes saw a chance to get the blood they'd been denied to this point. Surging ahead in the wake of the red and whites they began to close the ground between themselves and the Lone Star line.
Turning the large vehicle as fast as he could Jason mentally flicked the rear doors open and stepped back. Commanding the ambulance forward to plug the gap left by the cruiser he'd shoved aside at the same time flicking his mind to open two more channels on the remote deck. In the rear of the ambulance the two Geiger drones rumbled into life, the bursts of smoke exploding from their cold exhausts immediately absorbed by the scrubbers built into their bay; as soon as their systems had run up they deployed and followed the ambulance.
Stepping back into his meat Jason clambered from his seat, forgetting for a moment the crash restraint straps which held his body there. Quickly hoisting himself into the command cupola of the transport he plugged back into the vehicle, directing the drones to unship the stabilisation units he jumped back into the Citymaster and turned his head to face the oncoming trolls and in an action analogous to blinking his eyes lent the weight of the medium threat response systems to the situation.
The Lone Star officers had been here for more than half an hour, by now those with ammunition for their sidearms were the lucky ones, most were down to their back-up pieces and the shotguns from the cruisers; the Spikes were better armed, tougher and greater in number, this push could put them straight through the line and that would result in a lot of dead officers. The chunter of the ambulance's twin, coaxially mounted Ingram Valiants would influence that outcome.
The lead trolls reacted as one would expect, charged up on a combat high they ran straight into the storm of fire which met them. Those who followed were surprised to see some of their number lifted clean off their feet as translucent green disks appeared on their chests.
The attack faltered and as more of the Spikes' numbers were whittled away, cracked; and once again the trolls hunkered down to exchange sporadic fire across the cars. Jason climbed down from the cupola, this time into the rear of the vehicle.
"Officer, get up into the cupola and take over on the guns." Grabbing a steri-pack of scrubs Dr Jason Nine-Horses took the steps down onto the interstate, activating the locator on his belt as he did so. The wounded were grouped on the other side of the median, as he crossed the drones followed on invisible strings around his waist.
Officer Anthony Giffin, Lone Star Badge number 3847, knew he was dying. One of the trogs' shots had hit him high and wide in his left shoulder, the entire of that side of his body was now numb and he could "feel" the life ebbing out of him. Fellow officers shone lights into his eyes, tried to talk to him; somehow, although he knew he should be answering them, should be telling them how to fix him, somehow it just didn't seem important. The rational part of his mind told him that he was unresponsive, in deep shock. The rational part of his mind had received emergency medical training and he should listen to it but somehow at this moment the rational part of his mind sounded like his mother had when she used to tell him to tidy his room as a kid… Somehow it was easier to ignore it, allow its arguments to pass in through one ear and out through the other. If was so quiet, so peaceful here, if he just closed his eyes now he could sleep, just close his eyes…
"He's going! Officer; you just got a new job," Jason popped the clasps on Duey's med case and pulled out a unit of P4MO, "hold it steady." The needle in, the blood expander began to flow from the bag into Officer Giffin's veins.
"Stay with me buddy." Glancing at the officer acting as an IV stand, "What's his name?"
"Er, Giffin, Anthony Giffin"
"Anthony, Anthony; you've got to stay with me Anthony." Again he glanced towards the improvised drip stand. "Does he have a family?"
"Fiancée and a three year old."
"Thanks. Anthony, stay with me buddy, you don't want to leave your kid without a dad now do you." Even as he talked his hands were busy elsewhere.
Carefully he manipulated the shoulder, feeling the injury out carefully, attempting to learn its nature without aggravating it.
"Clavicle's gone, Scapula's shattered, lot of tissue damage..." Warmth flowed over his hand suddenly, pulling him up short. He lifted the officer's shoulder roughly, speed at this point more important than care, "something's grazed the artery. It's a bleeder." He grabbed steripacks from the case with both hands, "Officer! Talk to him! Keep him with us!"
The artery would have to be closed, the man was in no condition to be moved, keyhole was not an option. A needle pierced the man's ribcage, the valve opened. Rich blood flowed. A datapad went to the officer holding the IV.
"Chest drain in place. Note this down Officer." A mask went to the officer holding Giffin's head, even as the syringe plunger pushed home. "Breath for him. Morphine administered, twenty five." The scalpel, the clamp. Jason wished he had a nurse here.
Peering through the blood he felt his way to the artery, the tools and his gloves livid with gore, finally the rubbery structure was in the jaws of the clamp and he could afford to reach for another piece of his arsenal.
Deuy's arm pumped blood from the wound. Finally able to see a second clamp could follow the first. Arterial suture in these conditions was not recommended practice, some would see it as barely short of butchery, to Anthony Giffin however it might be what let him see his kid again and Jason Nine-Horses had had more than his share of field surgery in far worse.
"Medical adhesive if you prefer Officer," Gore soaked gloves replaced with fresh, Deuy on cleaning cycle, "note it and move on." Keeping low behind the cruisers Nine-Horses moved down to the next man on the triage list as fresh meat for the grinder arrived, blues and twos all the way in.
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