05-24-2012, 08:30 PM
Okay, here's a quickie, but I got to go to work...
Dr. Adams surveyed the damage done to the NEDA station. It was mimimal at best, given the advance preparation they had taken. The computer terminals had been screwed to the desks, which in turn had been bracketed to the floor. All file cabinets had been similarly attached to the walls with molly bolts and half-inch thick steel brackets. Everything was still intact, save for a few framed photos and other personal items which had tumbled to the floor. The emergency generator had activated as programmed, and the computers were rebooting on the desks.
It finally happened, he thought. The Big One has struck Sin City, and he had been there when it happened. The building in which the NEDA station had been built to withstand a tremor no higher than a six on the Richter, but from what he read on the seismograph, it had been closer to a seven. The little three-point-five tremor had only been a warning, a sneak preview of coming attractions. No one, not even Dr. McKinsey Adams, could have predicted such a disaster. The only question remaining in his mind was if there would be aftershocks--and when.
"Brandi? It's Vivi," gasped a voice on the other end.
"Vivi!" Brandi Somers shouted frantically. "Are you okay?"
"No," Vivi groaned. "Listen, I'm in the ECRU shop, and I'm trapped under a shelf. I can't move, I can't breathe, and I think I'm gonna die."
"Ohmigod! Vivi! Do you want me to call nine-one-one?"
"I did that already. They're not here yet. What's it like outside, do you know?"
"Well, I'm in the shelter here at the Luxor," Brandi told her. "It's pretty crowded here. Vegas is like a total wreck, you know? The Luxor's probably the only building that's still standing. I was outside when it happened."
"Oh, God, I can't breathe anymore," Vivi gasped. "I think I'm gonna pass out again!"
"Hang in there, Vivi!" Brandi encouraged her. "Help is on the way. You're gonna be okay, hon. Just hang in there, okay?"
"Vivi, are you still there? Answer me!"
Nothing. With great reluctance and even greater sorrow, Brandi flipped off her cell phone.
Nini groaned as she opened her eyes. She didn't know how long she had been unconscious, nor where she was at that moment. She did see a familiar face looking down at her, a man's face. Her head throbbed where the looter had struck her, and she felt something refreshingly cold on the side of her face, numbing the pain.
Costa. It was Costa who was beside her, holding an icepack to her face. "Are you all right?" he asked softly.
Nini nodded, aggravating her headache as she did so. "That man," she moaned. "He tried to rob the cash register. I tried to stop him."
Costa shushed her. "It's okay, hon," he whispered. "He's in custody right now. There's been a lot of looting around here and outside. You were lucky he didn't kill you."
"I think he tried to rape me," Nini rasped.
"Well, he's going to be facing serious jail time for that, too," Costa told her. "Now, you just take it easy and get some rest."
"Okay," Nini mumbled as she drifted off into an exhausted sleep.
Costa rose to his feet. His instructor, Dwight Wyman, approached him. "What's her injury?" he asked.
"She was attacked by a looter in the MindFreak outlet store," Costa replied. "(Bleeper's) in custody right now."
Dwight shook his head sadly. Costa gritted his teeth in suppressed anger.
"What the hell is it with some people?" he wanted to know. "Instead of helping their fellow man, they take advantage of them instead. Robbing, looting, assaulting...God!"
"Well, disasters have a way of bringing out the worst in people," Dwight explained. "I mean, I've worked in areas that were hit by tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes, and there were always those who grabbed anything of value and took off with it. You know, there was looting even after Hurricane Katrina, despite the floodwaters deep enough to drown a man. I bet there was looting during Nine-Eleven as well."
He laid a hand on Costa's shoulder. "But, keep in mind," he continued, "disasters also bring out the best in people, too. That's why we're here. Just keep doing your job, and let the law handle the looters."
Costa nodded. Dwight smiled at him. "You're doing fine, Costa," he said.
Costa smiled back. It was refreshing to hear his own name instead of being referred to as Number Twenty-three. It made him feel human again. Yes, he would go on with his work. It was what he trained for, after all.
He turned around and saw JD standing at the door. "It's Christopher!" he cried. "He's back!"
Caked with dust and coughing from the fumes, Criss stumbled into the crowded atrium, his cableline of survivors in tow. Those who recognized him through the grit and grime cheered and called out his name. Some reached out to him as he collapsed onto the floor, gasping and wheezing for breath. Fumbling fingers untied the cable around his waist; a bottle of water was forced down his throat, choking him even more. Water came up his nostrils as he coughed uncontrollably.
JD fought his way through the crowd and knelt down beside him. "Chris!" he shouted. "Christopher! You okay?"
Criss nodded wearily. "The people," he gasped. "People behind me--"
"We'll take care of them," JD said. "Come on, we gotta get you some help."
He hoisted Criss up to his aching feet. "Come on, make way!" he shouted to the mob milling about. "My brother needs help!"
Exhausted to the point of unconsciousness, Criss allowed his brother to carry him to the Red Cross station, oblivious to those around him who were reaching out to him with outstretched hands, shouting words of comfort and encouragement to him.
"C'mon, Criss, you can make it!"
"Criss! Thank God you're all right!"
"Oh, God, Criss! Are you okay?"
In the Red Cross station in Room C, Costa trotted over to his injured brother and embraced him, letting tears of joy and relief fall unashamedly. "Thank God you're all right!" he quavered.
JD dropped Criss onto a chair. Costa undid the bandanna around his arm, then pulled on yet another pair of latex gloves to treat his injury. Criss dozed in the chair as Costa washed the wound with a bottle of water, but the sting of antiseptic jolted him awake again. "Ow! Son of a (bleep)!" he cried out.
"Take it easy," Costa told him firmly. "It's just a little antiseptic, that's all."
"God!" Criss exclaimed. "That hurt like a (bleeperbleeper)!"
Costa finished cleaning the scrape on Criss' arm and bound it with gauze. Criss admired his brother's handiwork. "Nice job," he complimented. "That Red Cross training really did come in handy, after all."
Costa nodded his thanks. Criss stood up. "Well, I'd better go back up to my suite," he said. "I wanna check on Hammie, see if he's all right."
"Uh, Christopher?" JD stopped him with a hand on the shoulder. "All the elevators are out of order, and the FEMA guys haven't given the all clear to go up there. It could be dangerous."
"I'm sure Hammie's fine," JD assured him. "No one's allowed up on the upper levels until FEMA says it's okay. That includes you. For once in your life, think about your own safety. Stay put until the all clear, okay?"
"(Bleep) what FEMA says!" Criss exploded. "I'm going up there if I have to walk every flight of stairs in the whole damn hotel!"
With that, Criss stormed out of the room. Exasperated, JD followed his headstrong brother. Once Criss got an idea into his head, he knew from long experience, there was no talking him out of it, whether it was one of his demonstrations or rescuing his beloved cat after an earthquake. JD could not help but wonder what it would take to knock some sense into him, short of a right hook to the jaw or a baseball bat over the head. He doubted even either of those would stop Criss from doing the things he was famous for.