05-21-2012, 02:59 PM
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.
If a rarer but damaging earthquake occurs in a part of Nevada that has less frequent earthquakes,
the shaking will be every bit as strong as earthquakes we anticipate in Western Nevada.
If we correlate this shaking potential map with possible damage, all of Nevada could experience damaging shaking.
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.
Last edited by Veritas; 05-21-2012 at 03:17 PM.