Baptism of Fire (for Loyal Lady Dee)
Hey! Hey! This is Jabber J on KLOL Radio this evening! It's seventy-two smokin' degrees, and I'm burnin' up the airwaves with the hottest hits! Comin' up, we got Soulja Boy, Young Jeezy and Jay-Z, and more! So, stick around, gotta pay the bills, and we'll be right back!"
Dr. McKinsey Adams, seismologist and assistant supervisor of the Nevada Environmental Disaster Agency, turned irritably toward the new intern, Craig Imahara, sitting at his computer terminal, jamming to the latest tunes. How he hated these college kids they threw at him, all tech-savvy but having no idea what was expected of them. He was supposed to be training them to be the next generation of disaster trackers, but all they did was tune into satellite radio, play online computer games, chat, email, and go cybershopping, among other things. He rapped Craig sharply on the shoulder.
The young intern almost jumped out of his seat. "You got those graphs ready?" Dr. Adams asked, "or are you too busy playing Guitar Hero to do your job?"
Craig pulled out a coil of paper from the bin at the bottom of the seismogram. "Right here, Dr. Adams."
Adams took the coil with a grunt of thanks. "Less rock, more research, okay, Craig?" he said.
Craig nodded, turning down the volume of his computer and clicking back onto the shear wave velocity data reports he had been assigned earlier. Adam took the coil back to his desk and unrolled it. Though he was only an assistant supervisor, he still ran a tight ship as far as NEDA was concerned. At forty-seven, he was still physically fit with a metabolism of a man half his age. He had to be. Being the top seismologist in the agency required a lot of field work as well as long hours poring over seismographs, taking readings and giving presentations to government bureaucrats to keep the funding from drying up. The stress load would have killed a lesser man.
Adams unscrolled the graphs for the afternoon, taken from the southern part of the state, near Las Vegas. Hardly anything registered there, but the Entertainment Capital of the World occupied a fault-bounded basin filled with alluvium up to five kilometers deep, with major faults in neighboring Death Valley. Sin City may glow with a thousand neon lights, but it had feet of clay.
Zero point zero, zero point zero, zero point three, zero point five--practically flatline as far as he could see. All was quiet on the Southern front, he thought. Around four PM, however, a one point five had registered, the highest he had seen in that region. True, it was the equivilant of a construction site blast taking place deep underground, and would barely be felt by anyone on the surface, but it was enough to cause some concern, but no panic. It was probably the rippling effect from a tremor from furthur up north. The southern tip of Nevada always got the aftereffects of shockwaves from the faults upstate, often so minor no one even knew there had been an earthquake. Adams called the Reno branch of NEDA to confirm his findings. Later he'd call Carson City. They'd confirm it was just a minor tremor up north that made its way to Vegas. It was a routine procedure, no need to ring any alarm bells.
Leslie Fanning, known to her fellow Wiccans as Sunsinger, shuffled the deck of Tarot cards in the usual ritualistic manner--cut, then shuffle, then cut again. It was her favorite morning ritual, like reading the paper or singing in the shower. It gave her an idea of what the day would be like for her before she left for her day job as an EMS dispatcher. It saddened her that she could not share her Wiccan way of life with her co-workers. Either they were skeptics, like her supervisor, Morton, who scorned anything that hinted of the paranormal, or they were religious zealots, like Regina, her fellow dispatcher and a Jehovah's Witness who left her church's magazines in the break room. One particular issue denouncing Wiccans as Satanists made her blood boil, but she couldn't make a federal case about it because then she'd be facing a mob of them outside her front door, intent on converting her to Jehovah's way of life. That she didn't need.
The cards she used were a quarter larger than a standard playing deck, specially ordered from Paranormality.com. Of all the decks she had used, this one was the best by far; they just felt right in her long, delicate musician's hands. She played the recorder for her coven on various occasions: handfastings, births, solstices, feast days, or whenever the mood for music struck. She also read the Tarot for her fellow Wiccans on request. Mostly, she read them for herself, like this morning.
Leslie laid three cards on the crimson velvet covered table, specially reserved for Tarot readings. She carefully laid the rest of the deck aside and turned each card over to reveal the past, the near future, and its outcome. She looked at the first card on the left.
The Fool, reversed. Not a good sign. It symbolized foolishness, instability, and the wasting away of creative energy in bad choices and rash decisions. A bad time for commitments. But the second card in the center was worse--the Tower, symbolizing disruption, conflict, change, sudden violent loss, ruin and dramatic upheaval. But, she reflected, it all would lead to enlightenment and freedom.
The third card, Death, seemed to confirm that hopeful note, for it revealed the beginning of an new life as a result of underlying circumstances due to past events and actions. The end of one phase of life would signal the beginning of a new one. Some major event would come as a wake-up call for her to begin anew. Yes, that was the message in the cards.
She swept the cards back into the deck and put everything away. It was time for her to go to work, and even Wiccans had to make a living. As she left her apartment she saw her neighbor, Lucas Hasselbeck, a young struggling musician just coming home from a late-night gig. Leslie couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Lucas had married his high-school sweetheart before the ink on their diplomas was barely dry. Isabella had been his strength, his inspiration, his main supporter when others told him to give up. Though they struggled to make ends meet with her day job as a drycleaner and his night gigs, she never stopped believing that he'd get his big break. When she had been killed by that drunk driver who had been going ninety in a forty mile an hour zone while pursued by two police cruisers, all the life seemed to drain out of him. Yet, to his credit, he kept going, doing it for Isabella, his muse in death as she had been in life.
Leslie had played guitar and recorder duets with him during his better moods, but she never ventured to ask him out for a drink or anything. He still pined for Isabella, though she had been dead for less than a year now. Goddess willing, he would come around, she thought as she stood at the bus stop. Grief was the price to pay for love.
Costa Sarantakos, Criss Angel's second oldest brother and as much a heartthrob as his more famous sibling, knelt beside his bed that morning, face buried in his arms. The dream had come back again last night, and this time he had cried out in terror when he awoke. It was the third time this week that he had that very same dream. He just couldn't understand it. Why was he having the same nightmare over and over again? Was he going crazy or something?
When he and his brothers were growing up in East Meadow, Long Island, whenever any one of them had a bad dream, their father would ask if there was a sin on his conscience. If not, then it was either something he ate or something else was bothering him, like at school or work. Then Dad would tell him to say a prayer and go back to sleep. So there was Costa, on his knees by his bedside, seeking solace from prayer, only solace didn't come so easily.
Ruins of buildings, like Ground Zero. Fire and smoke. Dirty, sooty, bleeding people begging for help, reaching out to me to help them. But I don't know how to help them. I'm not a doctor, or a fireman, or anything. I am as helpless as they are.
Hot tears burned his eyes and soaked into the bedclothes. He was tired, but he was too scared to go to sleep again. He felt ashamed of himself, a man in his mid-forties behaving like a child afraid of his own dreams. He needed to get up and get on with his life. They were dreams, that was all. Figments of his subconscious, a sweeping out of mental clutter from his brain.
But it was the same dream, over and over again, for three nights in a row. How could he explain that? Stress? No, it was something deeper, something more significant.
Dear God, he prayed. What are You trying to tell me? Is this a warning? Is this a prediction of the end of the world? Or is this a sign of something else? Or am I just going nuts here? Oh, dear God! Please, give me an answer!
More please :)
Oh no....Will Costa tell Criss? Please continue this, and I thank you for posting this for me! I'm ecstatic that Criss (with amazing help from Mateo, Luke, and Brian) answered my question and now I'm itching to go back to Vegas really soon to see BeLIEve in its updated form!
Dr. Melinda Shyne, MD, examined the hand X-rays on the flourescent screen in the examining room of St. Mary's Hospital. No sign of infection, no major fractures, no long term damage as far as she could see. Just a four-inch nail going straight through the right hand. It had taken the better part of an hour to extract it without incurring any more damage. A few stitches front and back, an Ace bandage, and the patient was good to go, with orders to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to replace blood loss.
The patient, of course, was none other than Criss Angel, Las Vegas' hottest new illusionist and resident daredevil. He had been bought into the ER after his latest stunt went wrong--attempting to catch a nail fired from a pneumatic nail gun at fourteen hundred feet per second. Dr. Shyne had seen and undone the damage caused by human stupidity and recklessness: firecrackers launched from hands, mouths, and in one case, the buttocks; Evel Kneval and Tony Hawk wannabes who had crashed into concrete without a helmet; accidental chainsaw massacres; and the list went on. Usually, the patients were a little wiser if none the worse for wear after their ordeal, but when it came to death-defying stunts, Criss Angel took the blue ribbon for sheer persistance. The only difference was that he got paid for it.
Now he sat on the examining table, his hand bandaged in gauze, his face indifferent. Dr. Shyne turned to her famous patient and looked him squarely in the eye.
"You got off lucky, Criss," she told him. "That nail could have ended your career for good. What made you think you could catch a flying nail in the first place?"
"Well, I caught an arrow a few years ago," Criss explained. "So I decided to up the ante and go for a nail from a nail gun."
"And you lost," Dr. Shyne said. "Look, Criss, do yourself a favor. Stick to card tricks and making coins disappear, okay? You might just live to see your next birthday."
"People don't pay me to just make coins disappear or just do card tricks, Doc," Criss retorted. "They want me to freak them out."
"Well, you certainly did with that nail gun. You're the only person I know who makes a living trying to kill himself."
"I'm not trying to kill myself, Doc," Criss argued. "I'm just the type who likes to push his own envelope, that's all."
"Keep it up and you'll be pushing yourself into your own grave," the doctor shot back.
"Been there, done that," Criss shrugged.
"Only you'll be dead for sure. You, my friend, are an adrenalin junkie," she told him. "You get a rush from danger. You get high from the adrenalin when you do those stunts of yours. You couldn't stop even if you wanted to."
"So what do you want me to do?" Criss asked, "go into rehab?"
"If there was a clinic for it, I'd say yes."
"Look, Doc, I'll be fine, really. Don't worry about me, or you'll be giving yourself an ulcer or something."
"It's not myself that's at issue here," Dr. Shyne said. "It's you. You're the one who's been living on the edge, and one day you are going to find yourself toppling over it with no one to save you. You can't keep cheating death forever, you know."
Criss picked up his jacket with his good hand. "When my time comes, it comes," he replied philosophically. "I don't fear death, I accept it. Circle of life and all that." He gave the petite, strawberry-blond physician a friendly hug. "I'll send you an invitation to my next birthday party," he said, smiling mischeviously as he left the examining room.
Dr. Shyne could only stand there, shaking her head in disbelief.
Fashion Week was still three months away, but Vivi DiLano of Las Vegas' ECRU was a whirlwind of activity. Fabric selections, fittings, alterations, redesigns, measurements, and all the usual stresses of preparing for a fashion show kept her going at a marathon pace. Though she was only a twenty-two year old intern for Vegas' own high-end clothing line, she was as determined as the designer herself that everything would be perfect for the big event. Vivi herself took care in her own personal appearance and behavior to reflect the integrity and the sophistication of ECRU. Her hair was fashionably layered with tufts sticking out in just the right places, her makeup was impeccably applied, and her clothes came from ECRU itself, a perk from her internship. She carried herself with dignity and grace, or so she believed. Her friends thought her divalike attitude made her seem snobbish, almost a caracature of the fashionista she pretended to be. Looking past her designer clothes, they saw the same plain-Jane Genevieve Delano from Pioche, Nevada, with a faceful of pimples and an impossible dream to become a fashion designer in her own right.
In Vivi's mind, however, her past was dead and gone. She had burned her bridges behind her and was on her way to becoming fashion's newest sensation with her internship with ECRU. To her, it was a stepping stone to fame and fortune. But for now, she had to get everything ready for Fashion Week, and make sure that everything was perfect. Erica Connolly, the chief designer for ECRU, was counting on her, and Vivi was not going to let her down.
She went into the sewing room to check on the gowns to be modeled at the show. Six were already hanging on the rack, ready to go. She carefully inspected each gown for flaws or imperfections. The blue low-cut looked good enough. The black dress with the hip-high slit seemed to hang just right, though she wouldn't know until the actual fitting. She measured the pleats in the sleeves of the winter-wheat after-six gown to make sure they were all equally spaced. To her relief, they were, but she saw some loose threads dangling from the ends. Very sloppy work, she thought to herself. Well, she'd have to snip them herself. She took a pair of shears from her toolbelt and was about to painstakingly trim the sleeves when she felt the floor move under her feet. It was as if someone had set the building on vibrate. Then, just as suddenly, it stopped.
All sewing stopped. No one moved for a few seconds, only murmurs of bewiderment. The word "earthquake" bounced back and forth among the staff. Vivi dismissed such a foolish notion. Earthquakes in Las Vegas? No way! LA maybe, but Vegas was miles away from the San Andreas fault. No, it had to be a truck or something going by.
"All right, everyone," she called out. "Let's get back to work now. Nothing to worry about."
Dr. Adams pondered the study done by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas seismic research team that he had just read. The one-point-five reading from the graphs had been just a minor tremor according to Reno and Carson City. Indeed, it hadn't even registered with them. Adams was tempted to pass it off as a fluke, but long experience had told him that dismissing the smallest tremor could have major consequences. The best course of action was to monitor the southern tip of the state for any future spikes on the graph. Only time would tell whether it was a fluke or a harbinger of disaster to come...Earthquake risks around Las Vegas are significant. As the metropolitan area sustains its record growth rate, the potential for damage from a major earthquake continues to grow apace. Recent upgrades to seismic construction standards will help to mitigate risk. However, today we are a long way from truly understanding the potential consequences of a devastating earthquake, which must happen before we can adequately prepare.
"Wow!" Chaunte Fresh exclaimed. "Did you feel that?"
"You mean that vibrating under the sidewalk?" her friend Marie Austin asked her.
"Yeah," Chaunte answered. "Wasn't that wierd?"
"I didn't know Las Vegas had earthquakes," Marie said curiously.
"Maybe it was the subway," Chaunte opined. "They have a subway here in Las Vegas, you know."
Marie seemed relieved. "Of course! That must have been it!"
"Yeah, so let's get to the Luxor and see Criss!"
Both skipped happily to the Luxor Hotel, two young tourists from Wisconsin, Loyals to a fault. They had pooled their tips from working in a sports bar for this wonderful three-day vacation in Sin City. It took a lot of lifting endless pitchers of beer and enduring the goosing and shameless flirting from the customers to rake in enough cash to finance the trip, but in the end, it was worth it. They were in Vegas, home of Criss Angel, the hottest, sexiest, most magical hunk this side of the Mississippi! Nothing was going to stop them from seeing him, not if they could help it!
The object of Chaunte's and Marie's affection was in the production office, nursing his injured hand. His eldest brother, JD, sat next to him, a concerned look on his face, but not for Criss' hand.
"I'm glad your hand is all right, Criss," JD said, "but now we got another problem."
Criss looked expectantly at him. "It's Costa," JD began. "He's been kinda moody lately. I don't think he's slept for days. When I asked him what was wrong, he just blew me off, said it was nothing. And while you were at the doctor, he came in late and went straight into the bathroom. Didn't come out for almost an hour."
Criss grew concerned. True, Costa had always been the quiet one among the three, but this was definatly unusual. Coming in late? Ignoring his own family? "Something's wrong," he said.
"Wanna go talk to him?" JD suggested.
Criss nodded. "Let's go talk to him and see what this is all about," he said, rising. "Where is he?"
JD looked around. "Dunno. Gotta look for him."
He wasn't at his usual desk, he wasn't in the store, he wasn't in the front of the office. Only when JD looked in the back storage area did he find his wayward brother, sitting on some cartons, looking miserable.
"Hey, Criss!" he called out. "In here."
Criss trotted over to the storage area, wondering why Costa would be holed up in there of all places. "Cos?" he called out softly, so as not to startle him. "You okay, dude?"
Costa turned his head slowly toward his brothers, saying nothing. Criss and JD sat down on either side of him on the carton.
"What's up, bro?" Criss asked him, caressing Costa's back comfortingly. "Something wrong?"
"You wanna talk about it?" JD encouraged.
Costa sighed heavily. "I...I don't know," he shrugged. "How can I explain what I can't figure out?"
"Tell us about it," JD said, "and we can figure it out together."
Another heavy sigh. "I've been having this...dream, nightmare, whatever you want to call it, for three nights in a row now. It's driving me nuts!"
"What's it all about?" Criss asked.
"That's what I want to know," Costa replied. "I kept having the same dream of burning buildings, people crying out to me for help, but I don't know how to help them. I don't know if it's a warning or a prediction or what."
"Can you describe it in more detail?" Criss asked.
"Well, it looked like Nine-Eleven, only it was here in Las Vegas," Costa began. "Burning, ruined, collapsed buildings, smoke and fire, people covered in soot, bleeding, burned, and they all want me to help them. So much pain, so much suffering."
Costa broke off, burying his face in his hands. Criss kept up with the backrubs. "It's the same damn dream, over and over again!" Costa exclaimed. "You know how Dad always taught us to pray whenever we had a bad dream when we were kids? Well, I did that this morning, but it didn't help, not one bit! It's getting so I'm scared to go to sleep at night! Oh, God!" he moaned.
"Maybe you need some time off," Criss suggested. "Relax, do something you want to do for a while. Go back to New York and see Mom."
"Mom's in Greece, remember?" JD reminded him.
Damn! I forgot. "Well, anyway, maybe a change of scenery would do you good," Criss persisted. "Take a few days off and have a little fun. You've earned it. Then, maybe you'll feel better."
Costa rose to leave. JD and Criss walked out the door with him. "It's gonna be okay, Cos," JD assured him. "Maybe you're having a flashback to Nine-Eleven or something."
"For three straight nights?" Costa countered. "I don't think so."
"Hey, Nini!" Hadley Grace called out to the young clerk behind the counter of the MindFreak store. "Did you feel the earthquake just now?"
Serenity Luciano looked bemusedly at the slender brunette who was the very epitome of her surname, a dancer with Criss Angel's show Believe in the Luxor. "Earthquake? What earthquake?" she wanted to know.
"I felt it outside as I was coming in," Hadley told her. "It wasn't anything major, just a little shaking, like one of those old Magic Fingers beds they have in cheap motels, or something."
"No, I didn't feel a thing," Nini answered. "I've been in the shop all afternoon."
Hadley looked disappointed. "Oh. Well, it was nothing major, like back in Two Thousand Six."
"Whatever," Nini shrugged. "Say, the manager's in, and I'd get canned if I got caught gossiping during working hours again. Catch you later at LAX, okay?"
"Sure," Hadley nodded understandingly. Nini was putting herself through school, having no other resourses but her own, having been raised by her great-grandmother after her parents abandoned her at age four when they realized their teen marriage was a big mistake and went their separate ways. On her own for the first time, Nini balanced school and work with equal grace, landing a partial athletic scholarship at UNLV in volleyball.
Oh, yes, Hadley knew about struggle. She herself had been dancing since the age of five, and finally landed a spot with Believe after one failed audition after another. She lived with her sister, Marcie, in an apartment just off North Las Vegas. Both struggled with making the seven hundred and fifty dollar a month rent and keeping body and soul together, Hadley as a dancer, Marcie as a bartender.
One day, their ship would come in, she believed. Criss Angel was her inspiration, her guiding force. He was no quitter, and neither was she. It had been the greatest thrill of her life to be part of his show. He exuded confidence, and encouraged his troupe to work hard to make the show work. When she landed the spot, it was as if Heaven itself had opened up for her.
Hadley left the store in high spirits. "I feel the earth...move...under my feet!" she sang. "I feel the sky tumbling down!"
I can not wait to read the rest, seriously. I know the Carole King song :)
I think season five has confirmed to all of us that Criss loves to push his own envelope :O
Great Story :) poor Costa :( can't wait to find out more :)
A three-point-five. Dr. Adams studied the graph with concern. Vegas would have definatly felt that one, he thought. Fourteen years at NEDA and the highest he had detected in the Las Vegas Basin was a two-pointer, and that was years ago, the aftereffect of a quake up north registering a seven on the Richter. This was starting to get serious.
The fax machine kicked into action, spewing out seismographic data from Reno and Carson City. Adams snatched the sheets from the hopper and compared them with the graphs. Their readings were actually lower than Vegas, two-point-zero at the most. It didn't make sense. Historically and geographically, the Vegas Basin had the lowest frequency of seismic activity in the state. But, he recalled, it did not rule out the possibility of a quake happening at all. Either this was the biggest quake Vegas would ever experience, or it was a forequake, a sneak preview of coming disaster.
McKinsey Adams had been a seismologist since his freshman year at UCLA twenty-five years ago. Fourteen of those years were spent here at NEDA. Of earthquakes he knew one thing for sure--no one could predict them for sure. Seismographs could record the intensity of them, geologists could study the tectonics of the plates, and cities and towns could prepare for the aftermath of them, but no one on earth could predict just when, where and how strong the next one would be. Adams could only watch and wait.
Criss, for his part, was causing an earthquake of his own by announcing his most dangerous escape yet: To free himself from a pair of handcuffs secured around the railing of a hotel balcony that was about to be demolished. If he didn't make it to the roof and to the waiting helicopter in three and a half minutes, he would be left behind to face his fate. It was to be shown live on July thirtieth, before a crowd of thousands.
Weeks, if not months, would go into planning and preparing for this most dangerous demonstration, yet there were misgivings among Criss' family and the MindFreak staff, especially Criss' mother, Dimitra. She had returned from her vacation in Greece, happy and full of news about the distant relations still among the living, only to receive the horrifying news of Criss' latest stunt.
She approached her famous son in tears. "Why?" she pleaded, "why do you want to do this, Christopher? Please! I am begging you, don't do this stunt!"
Criss held his mother tightly in his arms. "Shhhhh! Mama, it's all right," he cooed.
"No!" Dimitra wailed. "It's not all right as you say! You'll be killed! I don't want to lose you, Christopher! Why do you always have to do these things? I worry and pray for you every time you do one of these 'demonstations' of yours, but you don't seem to care about how I feel!"
"Ma! That's not true!" Criss protested. "I love you more than anything! I'd never hurt you--never!" He raised her tear-streaked face with his fingertips. "Mom, I am going to make you a solemn promise. After I do the Clearwater demonstration, I will never, ever, do another dangerous, life-threatening demonstration again as long as I live. Just to make you happy."
Dimitra looked up at her son's clear hazel eyes that she had given him at birth. "I want to believe you, Christopher," she whispered. "But you may not survive this time."
"Believe me," he assured her. "I will. And if, God forbid, I don't, my last thoughts will be of you."
Criss embraced his mother tenderly. "This will be the last one, I swear to God," he said firmly. "Besides, I got Believe to do in October. I gotta stick around for that, you know."
His mother stared him squarely in the eye. "If you do solemnly swear as you say," she said seriously, "then I will pray for you to be successful. But if you break that vow in any way, then I can never trust you again. I am counting on you to keep your word, Christopher Nicholas. I am sick and tired of worrying about you doing these things on your show. I do not want to outlive you, Christopher, but I do not want to die from the shock of you doing these stunts."
Criss released his mother, gathered her soft hands into his and kissed them affectionatly. "I do so solemnly swear," he told her.
"Good," Dimitra said. "May God watch over you in Clearwater."
"I love you, Mom," Criss said softly.
"I love you, too, Christopher," his mother returned.
"I love you more," he whispered.
A week had passed since the NEDA picked up the tremor, and nothing unusual happened in Las Vegas since then. In the Entertainment Capital of the World, the only tremors came from the whir of the slot machines and the jiggling of the exotic dancers. Is everybody happy? You betcha! Even in the tough economic climate, Sin City sang out to one and all, "Every morning, every evening, ain't we got fun?"
Costa Sarantakos, however, would have responded "No, I ain't got fun". The same nightmare had haunted him again, twice in the same week, with much more intensity--he could almost smell the smoke from the burning buildings, and he heard the victims crying out his name. Costa! Costa! Please help us! Help us! Save us! Don't leave us here to die! He remembered responding I can't, I don't know how! There's too many of you! Where do I go for help?
In desperation, he sought help from a local priest. It was cheaper than a shrink, he figured. He carefully outlined his recurring nightmare to the patient cleric sitting opposite behind his desk, and the misery it was causing him. "What should I do, Father?" he asked.
The priest pondered what Costa had told him carefully. "You say you are helpless in your dream, that you don't know how to help the injured, is that correct?"
"Yes, Father," Costa replied.
"Then, it is my opinion that God is calling you to learn how to help them," the priest told him.
"You mean, God wants me to be a doctor, or a fireman or something like that?" Costa wanted to know.
"Maybe," replied the priest. "Or, you could just learn first aid, do volunteer work, that sort of thing."
Costa gave the matter some thought. "Well, I know I'm past the cutoff age for becoming a fireman," he said. "And becoming a doctor would take too long. I guess I'll stick with the first aid."
"Good," said the priest. "See if that helps."
"Do you think this dream of mine is a warning?" Costa asked. "A prediction of some future disaster?"
"That is hard to say," the priest replied. "God alone knows the future. But you can prepare for the future in many ways, with careful planning, with the right training, and with faith. Be strong, and pray every day. May God grant you peace."
Costa smiled a little, feeling a great burden rolling off his shoulders. "Amen," he said.
Costa entered the MindFreak production office in high spirits for the first time in over a week. JD and Criss couldn't help but notice the change in their brother's demeanor. He seemed so upbeat, smiling and greeting everyone with a cheery "Good morning".
Criss divined what had bought about such an about-face in Costa's attitude and stood before him, arms crossed, ready to grill him for answers. "Okay," he said, "who is she?"
Costa looked bemused. "Who?"
"The girl you're in love with," Criss said accusingly. "Who is she?"
"What girl?" Costa asked, not having any idea what Criss was talking about. "I don't know any girl?"
"Then how come you're all smiling and cheerful all of a sudden?" Criss demanded. "You're acting like a man in love to me."
"No, I'm not in love," Costa retorted. "It's because I found the solution to that dream I'd been having, that's what!"
"You mean the one with the burning buildings and the injured victims?" JD asked for clarification.
"Yeah, that one," Costa replied. "The problem lay with the fact--or the idea, or whatever--that I didn't know how to help the injured, right? Well, I figured the solution is to learn how to help them, so--"
He whipped out a billed cap with the American Red Cross logo on the front and placed it on his head. "I decided to take a class in first aid with the Red Cross--CPR, mouth-to-mouth, treating burns and other injuries, that sort of thing."
Criss and JD stared at Costa, unsure of what to make of this new development. "Ohhhh-kayyy!" Criss drawled, "if that's what you want to do, Costa, then...more power to you."
"Great," JD chimed in with a bit more confidence. "Now you can patch Criss up when he goes down with the hotel in Florida."
"Wait! Whoa!" Costa laughed. "I said I was taking a class, not going to med school! And you said I could take some personal time off, so I'm gonna put it to good use."
"Well, if this is what you really want to do, Cos, then I'm not going to stand in your way," Criss said with forced enthusiasm. "I mean, if this will help you overcome those nightmares, then I'm all for it. When's it start, anyway?"
"Tomorrow, nine AM. It's a two-day class for certification."
"Fine," Criss said, nodding. "Go for it."
"Thanks, guys." Costa left the office. Criss and JD drew close together.
"So, what do you think?" Criss asked.
"Hey, it makes him happy, so, why not?" JD shrugged. "You?"
"Let's keep this under wraps for now," Criss suggested. "If word gets out that Costa knows mouth-to-mouth resusitation, there's gonna be a bunch of girls lining up for him to practice on."
JD snorted, nudging Criss in the ribs.
"Blessed be, Sunsinger," Oak Tree Mother greeted Leslie.
"Blessed be, Mother," Leslie replied.
The coven had gathered in the stark beauty of the Nevada desert under cool, clear, starry skies. Seven women and six men made up the coven, Oak Tree Mother presiding. She was a middleaged woman, approaching fifty, her dark hair greying in streaks around her dignified face, giving her a matronly look. Her robes were the colors of the desert night, black with silver flecks to represent stars, denoting her status as the Crone, or Wise Woman. Her twelve followers adored her, looking up to her for advice and solace.
Tonight was a special occasion within the coven. One of their number, Rainsong (aka Janet Grebowski of San Marco, Nevada) was to receive the red robe of the Matron for the first time. Rainsong, seven and an half months pregnant, sat in a canvas director's chair to relieve the burden of childbearing from her feet. Her husband, Del, who chose not to have a coven name, stood beside her, his hand on her shoulder. It was a proud moment for both of them.
Oak Tree Mother called for order. "Brothers and sisters," she said loudly, "this night our sister, Rainsong, enters a new phase of her life as Matron. Where once the young Maiden stood, her sliver of light gleaming among the stars, now has grown full with new life within her. Let us rejoice as Rainsong takes on the red mantle of the Matron, symbolizing her passage into motherhood."
Starspirit, Oak Tree Mother's fifteen-year-old niece and the youngest member of the coven, reverently handed her aunt a carefully folded red robe. Oak Tree Mother accepted it in the same manner, then in turn passed it to Rainsong sitting in her chair. Del and Rainsong unfolded it, then Del draped her with it like a royal robe, their fellow Wiccans applauding as he did so. Rainsong was moved to tears over this honor, as were a few other women in the group.
Leslie, or Sunsinger as she preferred to be called within the Coven, sat on her portable stool, recorder at the ready, with two other members with musical talent: Butterfly with her violin, and Red Wolf with his custom-made "native" drum. Sunsinger still wore the white robes of the Maiden, being only twenty-two and still single, though her "maiden" status was questionable at best; she had a few lovers on the side, in and out of the coven, though she was far from promiscuous in the age of AIDS and other STDs. Leslie was no fool; she always insisted her partners wear "protection" before engaging in the act of love. Like all Wiccans, she celebrated life and all it had to offer unashamedly, but she could not ignore reality.
The signal was given for the musicians to play, and the three struck up a merry circle dance that Butterfly had composed for just such happy occasions as this. Butterfly, or Lori Gaines as she was known outside the coven, was a music major at UNLV, studying violin and composing. Her coven name was taken from the butterfly tattoo strategically placed on the small of her back, symbolizing her free spirit, or so she claimed. She was an extraordinarily talented musician, and she and Sunsinger played duets that she had composed as often as Sunsinger's EMS schedule allowed.
After the dancing, the feasting on organically grown vegetables and whole grain bread, and the other coven business was over and done with, the coven fell to chatting about everyday things: jobs, family, health issues, and the like. In due course, someone inquired about the tremor which had occured the previous week, and if anyone felt it.
"Yeah, wasn't that wierd?" Butterfly spoke up. "I was on my way to class when I felt the sidewalk just...vibrate, you know?" She quivered her hands to demonstrate.
"I was in an earthquake once," Red Wolf spoke up. "It was back in Eighty-Nine. You know, the World Series earthquake? Anyway, I was in some bar, then everything just started shaking, you know, and it was, like, what the (bleep)? Pretty scary."
They all nodded in agreement. "You think a major LA-type earthquake will ever hit Vegas?" Sunsinger asked.
Red Wolf shook his head. "Doubt it." he said.
"What about the one that hit Wells back in February?" Del spoke up. "That was pretty bad."
"Yeah, but that was all the way up north," Red Wolf pointed out. "I mean, we're in the freaking desert, for chrissakes! All we have to worry about is drought. The chances of us getting rocked by an earthquake are Las Vegas odds."
"Good morning, my name is Dwight Wyman, and I will be your Red Cross first aid instructor for today," the tall, redhaired bespectacled man in the Red Cross jacket said to the group sitting in the two rows of folding chairs before him. "First of all, raise your hand if you have had any previous Red Cross training."
None moved. "All right," Dwight continued. "Today we will be covering the basics--bleeding, shock, burns, breathing and choking. Let's see, we have..." He did a quick head count. "Ten people, so pair up with someone and you'll be assigned a station for the duration of the course."
Costa felt a tapping on his shoulder. He turned around and saw a young woman of about twenty or so, maybe late teens, he wasn't sure. She had bone straight blond hair, perky breasts and blue eyes that stared eagerly up at him. "Would you like to be my partner?" she cooed.
Costa looked around. Everyone else was paired up, so it looked as if he didn't have much choice. "Yeah, sure," he replied, shrugging his shoulders.
Costa and his new partner were assigned station number two, in a far corner of the room. The blond sidled up to him, making him uneasy.
"I'm Deirdre," the blond said. "You can call me Dee."
"Costa," he said. "Costa Sarantakos."
"I know," Dee purred.
Oh, Geez! Costa thought. What the hell did I just get myself into? I'm supposed to be here to learn how to save lives, and I get hit on by a lovesick Loyal! "Look, let's keep it professional, okay?" he said to Dee, backing away. "We're here for a reason, so keep it on a short leash, understand?"
Costa turned his attention to the instuctor, ignoring the peeved look on Dee's face. The instructor went through the first steps a person should take when encountering an accident scene: Make sure the scene was safe to approach, see if the victim was breathing, remove the victim by his feet if he was in danger, do a Full Body Scan for injuries which he detailed on a chart behind him, and so on. He led them to a display of a fully stocked first aid kit on an adjacent table, pointing out the purpose for each item. Throughout the whole course, Costa struggled to pay attention while keeping his starry-eyed partner at bay.
Then came the resusitating. One member of a team was to be the victim while the other performed mouth-to-mouth. Each team was to flip a coin to decide, but Dee was flat on her back before Costa had a chance to pull out a quarter from his pocket. Costa groaned inwardly, but he couldn't lodge a protest, because the instructor was already giving orders: "Check for breathing, lift the head, pinch the nostrils, open the mouth, and breathe into the mouth just enough to raise the chest cavity, then release, listen for breathing, then repeat."
Dee looked up at Costa, smiling expectantly, her perky breasts jutting up like twin peaks. Costa looked down at Dee. "No funny business, okay?" he warned her.
"Okay, okay, I promise," Dee giggled, squirming with anticipation.
"I mean it," he told her seriously.
"I said I promise."
Okay, here goes. Costa performed the procedure without incident. Then it was Dee's turn. Costa lowered himself onto his back, trying to relax and failing miserably while his partner turned the exercise into foreplay as he lay there, her kiss of life lingering longer than recommended by the ARC.
"How was that?" she asked, as if she had just performed some kinky sex act.
"Dee," Costa said. "You're supposed to save me, not seduce me."
Peak Ground Acceleration in Nevada over the next 50 years:
Dr. Adams studied the map on his monitor, a swirling mass of yellow, oranges, and tans, with a touch of blue on the southern tip bordering California and Arizona. From what he could see, Las Vegas was squarely in a yellow zone, meaning a thirty to forty per cent chance of an earthquake happening, with a level eight in intensity, according to the study. Level eight meant that those buildings lacking earthquake resistance would be damaged considerably, while those which were more sturdy would maintain minimal damage.
But which buildings were earthquake proof and which weren't? There was the rub, thought Dr. Adams. It would take weeks if not months to go through the building codes and inspection reports of every building in the Metropolitan area, and time was something Dr. Adams and NEDA didn't have. And he jolly well couldn't go and try to convince a bunch of thick-headed bureaucrats to prepare for an earthquake that might or might not happen, based on a few minor tremors and some color-coded maps. And even if he did manage to get the message out to the public, who would listen to him? When people thought of earthquakes, they thought of LA and Frisco, not Vegas.
Adams rubbed his tired eyes. Maybe he was making a mountain out of a molehill, he thought wearily. Charts, maps and data could only project disaster, not actually predict it. A thirty to forty percent chance of an earthquake hitting Las Vegas? Who the hell came up with that? It was like one of his math professors once said: there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. He logged off his computer and rose from his desk to go home. He'd been poring over data for over a week now, and nothing major happened. Making a mountain out of a molehill, that what it was. Just let it go. It's not like the world was coming to an end, he thought.
:eek: Veritas, you have no idea how much I am enjoying this story! It's one of the most amazing fanfics I have read! :) I have some things in common with Deidre: my nickname is Dee (short for Dolores), I know CPR and First Aid (for my profession of child care provider), and I have met Costa. In fact, I met Costa, JD, Dimitra, and Criss back in 2009. It was one of the best days of my life! I support them as a Loyal, and would never do anything crazy cause they are just too amazing. I hope all Loyals get to meet them all someday, they are too cool! :) Now...on to the rest of the story!
That's every loyal's fanasty to do mouth to mouth on Criss and any other of his brothers :D
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