'…I hear you… on our way… copy?'
Even through the bad signal, Nate could hear the relief in the woman's voice. Control, he thought the survivor is talking.
'Yeah. Hurry, its - its nasty in here. I want out!'
Nate was surprised at the desperation in his own voice. The paramedic heard it too.
'I definitely understand that. I just need you to stay with me, copy?'
The voice was calm, understanding. 'Okay hon, we're going to get you out of this as soon as we can, but we need to do this slowly. Make sure we get everyone, and make sure we don't make things worse...Okay?'
Nate nodded. Then he remembered that the speaker couldn't see him. 'Ok…'
Now that rescue was so close, he could feel his fear returning, the imminent possibility of freedom somehow making it worse. Frustration he thought. That’s what's making it worse. His feelings must have shown in his voice.
The radio crackled.
'You still with me, hon?'
Closing his eyes in an effort to block out the sight of his prison, Nate replied.
'Yeah, I, I, I'm still here.'
'Okay … my names Jess, what's yours?'
The signal was clearer now, that meant they were nearer.
'Nathan… people call me Nate.'
'Ok Nate, we're in the tunnel now. Do you know how far you are from the back of the train?'
'About halfway, I think. But things are fairly messed up, the train overturned.'
'That’s fine… do you have any idea how many cars there are?'
'Five, I think.'
'Okay, you're doing fine...'
The voice suddenly got quieter, Nate realised that Jess must be talking to someone else.
'Shore that up over there. Looks like we've got five cars, contact is near the middle...'
'Okay, Nate... we've reached the back of the train... just hang in there, okay?'
'Uh huh.' He looked up at a sudden high-pitched beeping. 'Umm… things just got worse in here, someone's DocWagon bracelet just went off, least that’s what I think it is…'
'Okay... you just take it easy, we're on our way... we'll be there as soon as we can... (Someone tell DocWagon to come in slowly on the metro)'
He could feel the tension building in him, worse than before. Struggling to escape.
'I gotta get out of here.' He muttered.
'Nate, we're on our way... you copy?'
Fighting for control, Nate staggered across to the wall of the carriage, rested his head against it, clutching at his temples, radio still in hand.
'Must … get … out…'
The voice on the radio was suddenly shouting.
'NATE… STAY WITH ME HERE, OKAY? NATE?'
He could feel his magic stirring, seeking an outlet. Dust on the floor began to stir, miniature twisters skipped through the carriage. NO! He clamped down on his power, fought it down ruthlessly.
He clenched his free hand into a fist and slammed it into the carriage wall; the impact was loud enough that he felt sure Jess had heard it.
'Nate? Can you hear me?'
He forced himself to reply, still fighting down the magic that threatened to pour out of him.
'cl… claus… claustrophobia'
'Nate! Nate hon, just focus on my voice okay... I need you to stay with me here. Focus on my voice...'
At the far end of the carriage, the dust devils collapsed in on them selves. He punched the wall again, harder. Round his feet, pieces of glass flipped up on edge and began to roll away from him, driven by the first breeze from the magical storm he could feel building inside himself.
He gritted his teeth, forcing the words out between them.
"We're working as hard as we can here… why don't you tell me about yourself?"
There was something calming in the voice now, even though her breathing was a little hard like she was exerting herself.
'Nate… We're coming... but I need you to hang on okay? Its easier if you talk to me... you aren't alone... we're coming for you... you just need to hang on...'
Nate punched the wall again, then shook his hand and examined his bruised knuckles.
Not too far from him, a six inch long piece of glass cracked cleanly down the middle, the break as straight as any glasscutter would have made it. No. I can't let this happen.
He knew how strained his voice sounded.
'I know... try talking... it helps... believe me... I know…' Something in the voice gave Nathan pause.
You're not just saying that, are you? I wonder what happened to you.
The pain from his knuckles finally began to override his fears. He sighed, and un-tensed slightly 'What you want to talk about?'
'Anything you want hon, the Timber Wolves game, your favourite songs, movies… (Ray, we got another one over here). Ok Nate, we've cleared the first car. We're coming…' The voice took on a teasing tone. '…How about who you're going to strangle for this power outage?…'
The fear started to bubble up again. Nate slammed his injured hand into the wall. Something went crack in his fingers. He yelped. 'Yow! Damnit… I was supposed to be meeting my girlfriend when I got off this train.'
The increased pain once again over rode and controlled the roiling power inside him. He sagged, sitting against the wall, examining his broken fingers. Primitive control method Nate, you tutors would NOT be impressed. Primitive but it works.
"Why don't you tell me about her? What's her name? ... We can relay it topside... get a message to her."
Nate sat there, nursing his hand. 'Alicia Masters. She's a Nightone - You know, the elf variant?'
'Okay… what station will she be at?'
'The next one, Pine Street.'
'Consider it done Nate. (Central, this is Miller... need you to relay a message to one 'Alicia Masters' She was waiting for the train at Pine Street station when the lights went out. If she's still there, I need you to tell her that Nate is all right, but he's going to be a little late... copy?) Nate hon, anything else?'
'No… I think I've broken my knuckles though…'
'I know that feeling hon… But did it make you feel any better?'
'It keeps me off where I am… but I really mean, I think they're broken.'
'We'll get you patched up. Believe me... I've been in worse situations and they got me out...'
Nate shook his head. 'No, you don't understand, its not just claustrophobia...'
'Talk to me...'
Nate sighed, trying to concentrate on the dull throb in his damaged fingers.
'I'm a Shaman, I got Talent, uh...do you know what can happen with magic in high stress situations?'
'yeah... last time it happened, I blew a dumpster into shrapnel. If anything happens, I won't be able to control it...'
He didn’t add that was seven years ago, when I first awakened. I'm probably an order of magnitude more powerful now.
'Okay… How close are you to that right now?'
'I'm hanging on, but if I break my other hand, I won't be able to hold the radio...'
'I think we can both agree that that would be bad.'
'yeah.' He watched as several long shards of glass flipped up, stood on their points and began to slowly rotate. A harmless enough phenomenon in itself, but it meant he was loosing control again. Cradling the radio in his lap, Nate gripped two fingers on his damaged hand and twisted. The pain brought tears to his eyes. The bits of glass toppled over.
'Okay... if it gets too bad... that big lunking paramedic next to you... this is his shift. I'm subbing for him. In his kit there should be a tranq patch... If it gets too bad, I want you to use it, but I'd rather you didn't. From what you've said you've got a head injury... so its better not to... but...'
Nate finished the sentence for her. 'I know... tranqs and magic don't really... go together... right...?'
'…Exactly... they also don't go well with head injuries... but then again, neither does shrapnel.'
Nate examined his broken and twisted fingers. 'Funny thing? You know the dumpster incident? I was trapped inside the dumpster at the time, that’s why it happened. Came outta that with out a scratch on me, not a mark.'
'Now that's impressive...'
'Just lucky I guess…'
'Well, it looks like your luck's holding. Car two… folks are banged up… but walking… We're almost to you…'
'They're walking in there?'
'They musta got off light then, compared to us lot in here.'
Distantly, Nate could hear heavy machinery, people shouting and the groan of metal bending under stress. He flexed his damaged fingers. 'Ouch…'
'We're moving the car out of the way... We're....' There was a squeal of metal, then a crash. The whole carriage lurched. The wall Nate was sat against flexed. He yelped and jumped away from it, the radio went clattering across the floor.
Cradling his injured hand, Nate retrieved the radio. 'Sorry, I dropped the radio.'
Unnoticed, dust and small pieces of debris on the floor began to quietly arrange themselves into intricate patterns around him; curving lines like a magnetic field acting on iron filings appeared. Concentric rings spread out from his feet, like ripples in a pond.
'It's okay Nate. From the looks of things, your car took the brunt of the impact from the ones behind it. We're almost there… I'm going to try and get in so I can start working on folks while the others make a door. Can you see any openings?'
He looked around. 'The doors into the other carriages are wedged shut. Uh…'
He looked up. You may be able to get in from above, through the windows. But the tunnel roof is low… tight squeeze. 's why I didn't get out that way.'
'No worries, it's why they have small wiry medics like me. (Guys… give me a hand here…)' Nate could hear thuds and scuffling from the far end.
He sat down next to the unconscious ork again.
Unnoticed, the patterns in the dust followed him as he moved, so that he was always at the exact centre.
'Guess…you should be glad that… Hugh was … running late…'
Nate glanced at the ork. 'Hugh's this guy?'
'Yeah... If he'd been on time... He'd be ... trying to ... climb...'
Nate looked at the bulky, well-muscled ork. 'He's an ork... wouldn't fit, surely?'
'..My ... point... exactly....'
'Okay…I couldn't leave that way, woulda freaked out way before I got free...'
'Oh... yeah... remind me to... lose a few... pounds..."
He tracked the sounds across the roof of the carriage. Progress was slow, but Jess would soon reach a broken window and be able to get inside.
'Remind ME never to take the subway again…'
Laugher came over the radio, and he heard it echoing in through the broken windows as well. 'Deal.'
Nate tried to move his damaged fingers, but the pain was sharp, making him stop. The dust patterns collapsed around his feet. He leaned back, closed his eyes. Someone would be with him in a few seconds. He was safe. Suddenly even keeping his eyes open seemed to be too much trouble. He put the radio down. The tension inside him was draining away, his power dissipating harmlessly.
The scrapes and bangs from the roof stopped. All Nate could hear was the distant voices of the other rescue workers. He opened his eyes and glanced up at the broken windows above him. Looking back was a smiling, upside down and dust streaked face that undoubtedly belonged to Jess.
Leaning down through the broken window she glanced around. 'Room for one more one in here?'
Nate nodded and pulled himself to his feet, careful to avoid using his damaged hand. 'Hello…'
'I'll be down in a second.' She started talking into the radio headset she was wearing.. 'Gimmie about four feet of slack here guys.' She looked round the car. 'Looks like your ok to cut in at the south end, you've got about six foot clearance before the first obstruction.' The sounds of machinery outside increased in volume.
She inched out further over the hole, her torso hanging into the car.
'Uh… Nate, can I have a hand here please?'
With a fair bit of difficulty, a couple of curses, and a yelp from Nate when she accidentally grabbed his injured fingers, Jess was able to get into the carriage.
'Thanks.' She untied the rope from, round her waist and keyed her radio again.
'Ok, send it through.' Jess started pulling carefully at the rope and eventually a medical kit fell through the hole in the ceiling, nearly hitting her on the head.
Nate half smiled. 'Huh. That woulda been a crummy way for this to end…'
Jess smiled wryly as she untied the rope from the kits handle. 'Yeah. You holding up all right, Nate?'
Nate wondered if he looked half as pale as he thought he did. 'Yeah…'
'Good. I need to check on the others. Want to make yourself useful? Hold this and follow me.'
The medical kit was pushed into his arms and Jess turned away, assessing which of the casualties was worst hurt.
For the next ten minutes, Nate followed Jess around as she checked people over, tending injuries and marking them with small coloured tags round their left wrist. Nate guessed they were quick indicators of the persons condition, so that follow up crews could prioritise those who needed attention most. As a rough guide, blue and greens were minor injuries, yellow through to red were more serious.
When she attached a black tag to the first dead body they came to, Nate decided he was right. No one alive had a black tag.
He glanced up at a sudden squeal of metal from the south end of the carriage where a large metal claw has pierced the wall and was now slowly tearing a hole in the metal, bending it back like paper. The claw disappeared and was replaced by a pair of metal arms that gripped the sides of the hole and pulled, peeling the wall back and leaving a hole large enough for those outside to enter.
Jess glanced at the first person to enter and then returned her attention to the victim she was working on. She called over her shoulder. 'All the survivors are tagged. If they ain't got a tag, they're dead.'
The newcomers started loading the most badly injured onto stretchers and carrying them out through the hole.
Nate glanced down at his left wrist. No tag. Guess I'm dead then. Jess turned her attention to Hugh, who was still outcold, an orange tag round his wrist. Pulling a large magic marker from her pocket, she wrote SLACKER across the tag in big letters. Tucking the marker back into its pocket she straightened up.
Nate frowned at the tag as Hugh was carried out on a stretcher. 'Slacker? Hardly seems fair?'
Jess smiled at him. She looked exhausted but humour showed through. 'He deserves it. I should be home taking a bubble bath right now.'
Nate thought about that and shrugged.
Taking the medical kit off him, Jess stepped aside so that the rescue crew could bring more stretchers through the hole. 'Nathan… you did good.'
Nate gave her a puzzled look, then glanced at his broken fingers. 'All I did was break my own fingers, made more work for you guys…'
'You kept your head... and you got us here. I'd like to get you to a hospital, get you checked out…'
'What for? Oh, the head… it don't really hurt no more and I gotta go find Alicia, she'll be worrying and-'
Jess interrupted firmly. "We've got people on it... Now I can't force you... but there were fatalities here... you may be more injured than you think... Standard procedure says you've earned a ride. You were also knocked out yes? That's another thing that earns you a ride..."
Nate poked gently at the wound with his good hand. 'oh, ok... I guess your right...'
Jess smiled. 'We'll find her. Get her there to meet you, besides you can keep an eye on the big lug for me.'
'Hugh? He don't need me for that, surely?'
Jess shook her head. 'Nah, it's just an excuse to get you on the bus.'
Nate half smiled. 'Ok, you win. I'll go…'
'Thanks! For everything. I'll check in on you... soon as we finish up here...'
'I go with that guy over there, right?'
Jess nodded and Nate turned to leave. Just as he was about to duck through the hole, he turned to face her again. 'And thanks for keeping me sane through that.' 'No worries hon… been there myself...' Again, some undertone in her voice gave Nathan pause. I know. He thought. I can see it in your eyes, now. Something happened to you. Something terrible. But you came through it. I wonder what it was?
He smiled, for what seemed like the first time in years. 'Once they let me out, I'll come back and help.'
Jess nodded. 'They should have volunteer posts at the hospital... stay there till they find your girl friend... easier to find folks when they're stationary.'
Nate nodded and turned to duck through the hole. Then something Jess had said clicked and he straightened up again. 'Hold on you said 'volunteer posts', how bad is this? It isn't just this train, is it?'
Jess shook her head, leaned against the wall. 'Power's out... whole grid... they're calling in all off duty medics and rescue workers.'
Nates eyes widened. 'The whole freaking grid? Did we go to war whilst I was down here?'
Jess looked suddenly helpless. 'I don’t know, I'm only a medic. They say it should be up 'anytime now' but I'm not holding my breath.'
Nate was having trouble absorbing the idea, the entire Seattle Metroplex, blacked out. Millions of people, the largest city in the northwest… the concept was too big. It kept getting away from him. 'The whole city…' He shook his head and looked up. 'What the hell is going on?'
Jess shrugged. 'If you find out, let me know. I got a feeling this is just the start.'
Nate looked upwards, imagining his gaze could pierce through the tunnel roof and look out on the dead city above them. 'I hear that.'
(Jess and the crew provided by deckerM)
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