03 – Low Fuel Warning

Pithos (Prologue)

[832 words – #3WW]At the hospital Danny spent a lot of her time watching over the unconscious firefighters. Aside from the bruises and burns on some exposed skin, there were four broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken shoulder and a dislocated knee. As the firefighters regained consciousness, they pieced together the chronology of the explosion: The fallen firefighter was in the lead. He was standing inside the open hatch of the flammable liquid storage tank when he saw the ignition of the liquid. It was quicker for him to close the hatch and presumably rely on his gear to protect him from the blast. He successfully closed the hatch cutting off the oxygen, but his uniform coat had snagged on the hatch frame. He had not been fast enough and the existing oxygen mixed with the flammable vapor and exploded before the oxygen was depleted from the tank. The resulting explosion threw the surviving firefighters away from the center of the explosion. It had all happened in scant seconds from discovery to explosion. His quick thinking saved the lives of his fellow firefighters. The firefighter’s name was Terry Mann. He was named after his father, some kind of physician. He had no chance of survival once he made the decision to save his brothers. Plummeting ten meters into a tank of burning liquid and exploding vapor was not a pleasant way to die.

Tears welled up in Danny’s eyes and she excused herself from the room. Terrance Mann Jr. was one of the most outspoken firefighters in favor of Danny’s run for Fire Commissioner. He attended all her debates and posed some of the most difficult questions. Danny didn’t believe he was being malicious in what questions he asked, and answering those tough questions had solidified some of the people who were on the fence. Terry Mann was a constant presence during her candidacy, and she did not doubt he would be chief of a station soon enough. They had met frequently for coffee and talk. He maintained an aloof nature, but she suspected his façade hid a well of feelings he kept to himself. They managed to meet so frequently; she started looking forward to those future meetings. When schedules or work prevented him from meeting her, she missed him. Their relationship had moved beyond the familiar and was just starting the sparks of an impending romance.

In the hallway she attempted to gather her composure. Less than a week after assuming her duties as Commissioner, she had a fatality. Not just any fatality, but her friend. The whole situation teetered on ironic circumstance.

A nurse rushed up to Danny, “Miss Peterson! I need you to come with me immediately!”

Whatever the emergency was, it was better than thinking about Terry’s last moments. The reprieve, although temporary, was a welcome distraction. She followed the nurse down a few halls and found herself in the intensive care unit. She couldn’t figure out what was so important in the ICU, last she had heard the rescued firefighters had been moved. One of them had even been released, she thought.

As she rushed by groups of firefighters and well-wishers, she picked up fragments of hushed conversation. They all seemed to be talking about Terry Mann. It didn’t make sense – Terry Mann died saving his team. What was so important she that was rushed to the ICU?

The head of the ICU burst out of the room they were all gathered around, “We’ve stabilized him and in a few hours we will be transferring him to a burn unit.” He held up his hands to stem the tide of questions. “Terry is in a medically induced coma, and has third degree burns over seventy-two percent of his body. His chance of survival is less than four percent.”

The eruption of questions and the thundering of news reporters invading the waiting room was lost on Danny. The three sentences the doctor spoke rattled around in her brain. Terry was alive, but for how long? She closed her eyes and tried to envision the closest burn unit with the facilities to care for her friend.

She stood, testing her legs to see if they would do as they were told. She wiped barely perceptible tears from her cheeks and rushed to the parking lot.

* * *

Terry Man was transferred to the burn unit by helicopter. Danny drove straight to the burn unit. She ignored the ding and the indicator warning of a low fuel level. It was a ninety minute drive, but she made it there in seventy-five. She was one of the first from the local hospital to arrive, and her minor celebrity status gained her access to Terry Mann’s doctors. She felt a minor pang of guilt muscling into their meeting, but she cared for Terry to worry about the political repercussions. Perhaps you care too much, a voice in her head chimed. She ignored the chiming voice just as she had the low fuel warning.

Next: Elevator Club

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

2 responses to “03 – Low Fuel Warning

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