A Hell of a Night

This story appeared in Hadrosaur Tales 10 and is the sequel to "Somethings Never Change." While this futuristic paramedic story may have been inspired by my time working on an ambulance, it's also firmly rooted in my wild imagination.           

 

                    A HELL OF A NIGHT ©

                             by

                    Rebecca Inch-Partridge

 

 

      “Medic 51, Code three for fingernail pain...”

     Oh hell, more than ninety light years from Earth and there’re still idiots who call for bull shit in the middle of the night. If it was one thing being on Towerth had taught me, it was that Emergency Medical Services were the same no matter what planet you were on. Even down to the retarded computer-aided dispatch system  that assigned such asinine calls as Code threes.

     “Hey, sleepy head, you getting up or what?” I vaguely heard Ron prodding me. “Com’n, Jerusha, you may be getting old, but we still have response times to meet."

     God I hate working with newbies, I decided yet again. And Ron wasn’t just new to multi-racial paramedicine. He was fairly new medic all together. Well, I guess four years in the field wasn't exactly new. God, I am getting old, I thought, making my way slowly out of the station. After twenty years as a paramedic, I’d be damned if I was going to hurry for “fingernail pain.”

     On the other hand, even I  might have rushed if I’d known how ridiculous this call was going to be. Mengous, one of the more timid Katians from this planet's Interplanetary Council delegation, had his cat-like claw stuck in the gill of a FarPay woman, a very high ranking and married FarPay woman.

     A cat and a fish. I immediately had the image of my cat back home caught with his paw in the fish tank. Only this cat-man was a sentient being far removed from his feline ancestors and his paw was stuck in one of the most erogenous zones of his fish-like companion. When he recognized me from my time working at the first aid station of the Interplanetary Council, he tucked his tail and flattened his ears in shame. “Please, tell me you won’t transport this, Jerusha,” he meowed in Basic.

     “Well, I don’t know. We’re not supposed to remove impaled objects. It’s not in our protocols,” I teased. Anyone who knew me, knew my “cowgirl” reputation.

     His companion failed to catch on to my humor. Her gills puffed frantically, producing the most pitiful moaning. Not only would it be embarrassing for her if this became public; her position on the Council might well be endangered since her race and the Katians were long time enemies.

     Refraining from any more jokes at their expense, we clipped his claw and extracted it from her gill then left them to recover what was left of their dignity. Of course, my ever diligent partner had to remind her to change the cartridge in her land-adaptation apparatus and secure her imprint on a “refusal of transport” form before we could leave.

    # # #

     “Well, I guess that qualified as our bazaar call for the night,” Ron laughed as we pulled up to our station.

     Before I could warn him not to tempt the gods of EMS, the dispatch computer proved him wrong. “Medic 51, Code two. CPR in progress.”

     My partner took the radio so my smart mouth wouldn’t get us in to trouble. "Dispatch, confirm Code two for CPR?” he asked politely.

     “Affirm. Per law enforcement on scene, the patient has been dead for two weeks.”

     And just why the hell are we responding? I wanted to know. I grabbed for the microphone. Ron and I wrestled over it for a minute, but he finally won. He very carefully asked for a supervisor.

     “Medic 51?” the dispatch supervisor’s organic, yet obviously translated, voice came over the radio. “Medic 51, be advised that law enforcement just wishes you to confirm for bystanders that the patient is completely dead.”

     “As opposed to just slightly dead,” we both said but not for her to hear.

    # # #

     Oh shit, what a mess. I let out a sigh as we looked over the scene. They were literally playing tug-a-war with the body. Branches and leaves were being pulled off of it in the process and scattered all over the courtyard. A large group of Elmmen, plant-based life forms, were trying to drag their deceased comrade to our rig. However, the local police officers, all Katian, obviously did not want the body removed from the scene. And nobody spoke Basic. The argument was reduced to a lot of useless shouting, hissing and growling.

     It didn’t take long for the Elmmen, with their four main arms and dozens of sub appendages, to win. With one last tug they freed the corpse, then threw it onto our anti-grav cot, which someone had so thoughtfully gotten out of our hovercraft without permission. The only problem was one of its arms hit the accelerator and the cot took off at full speed without anyone hanging on to it.

     Everyone looked at me and my partner expectantly, as if we were supposed to go chasing after it. Ah hell. We ran down the hill into the adjoining courtyard, through some planter boxes and into the next street before catching up with the cot. But when we did, the body was gone.

     “Where’d the hell it go?” Ron gasped.

     “Well, it didn’t get up and walk away. It’s got to be around here somewhere.”

     We searched the area until we found it down a steep hill in a small ravine. Well, what was left of it, that is. All the branches, even the four that constituted its arms, had broken off. It now resembled a tree stump more than what had once been a sentient being. We loaded it onto the cot and headed back to our modern-day ambulance.

     By then the scene had deteriorated into a near riot. The officer in charge pointed at us, then the body, then our rig. His meaning was clear: we were to transport the body.   Though not thrilled, I did understand. If we didn’t, the hundreds of Elmmen that had gathered might just turn violent. We obediently loaded it into our rig and took off.

     Once under way, I climbed up to the front, certain that our passenger would not mind my lack of manners. I put us en route to the Space Dock’s Medical Unit since we didn’t know what else to do with the body. Besides, at least there we could get a real cup of coffee.

     “Medic 51?” came the dreaded voice of the dispatch supervisor. “Medic 51, confirm you are transporting to the Dock’s Med. Unit.”

     “Affirm,” I replied without volunteering any details.

     “Confirm your patient is dead?”

     “Affirm.”

     “Negative, Medic 51. I have another call for you. You will have to leave the body with law enforcement.”

     “Negative, dispatch. Law enforcement ordered us to transport due to a highly volatile scene,” I said remaining as polite as I could. My partner looked at me concerned. “Don’t worry,” I told him. “I won’t lose it. I promise.” I knew about my reputation for telling off, but I only did it when they were being really stupid.

     “Medic 51, you will have to have one of the officers take charge of the corpse so that you can take this call. You are the only unit in the area.”

     Gee, I wonder if that has something to do with you guys cutting back the number of units on at night. Forgetting my promise to stay calm, I growled. “Dispatch, I think the officers on scene are a little busy trying to contain a riot. We’re only five out from the Dock’s Med. Unit. We’ll do a quick clean up and take the call as soon as we can.”

     I never heard her response. Ron slammed the hovercraft into full reverse thrusters to avoid running over an obviously crazed idiot who had run out in front of us. “Please, help me!” the raggedy, old human woman screamed. “They’re going to kill me. They’ll kill us all! They’re evil! Evil! Everywhere you look...”

     Oh great, a damned 5150. I really don’t feel like dealing with another paranoid schizophrenic. I started to inform dispatch of our situation when she ran to the back to let herself in. I handed Ron the mike and moved to the back to deal with her. It seemed like we never made it through a shift without picking up a few crazies hanging around the docks screaming about the mysterious “them."

     For some reason, I noticed a very expensive, high speed hovercraft circling very slowly. Then again, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t really out to get you.

     I grabbed her by the hair and flung her on to the cot. “Ron, punch it!” Thank god he did or I would have been right in the line of fire. I slammed the door shut remembering how I had laughed when Melore had told me the rig was laser proof. It seemed so ridiculous to me at the time. But my friend and founder of Multi-racial EMS, Ambassador Melore, insisted that we be well protected.

     About this time Ron figured out what was going on and I realized that the woman had been shot. It was amazing that she had even been on her feet at all with a hole the size of a baseball in her back. She suddenly noticed the decayed body she had landed on and started screaming hysterically. I tried to quiet her while Ron relayed our rapidly changing position to dispatch so they could get either Council Security or the local police to us.

     I moved her over to the bench seat and hooked her up to all our monitoring equipment. She had lost a lot of blood. Enough that regular plasma expanders just weren’t going to help much. She needed Marrex, which increased the body’s production of blood cells, but that required a doctor’s consult. It was one of the few cases when I didn’t consider it “mother may I,” either. Using the information from our scanners, the Medical Unit’s lab formulated the exact chemistry of the dose for each patient.

     Normally, I’d have Ron make the call, but since he was busy saving our asses, I set up the video link myself. Only problem was, according to the computer we were in a dead zone. “Um, Ron, I know you’re busy, but you gotta get us clear of all the skyscrapers. I can’t make contact with the Dock’s Med. Unit.”

     He just rolled his eyes and kept driving like a bat out of hell. I reassessed the woman. She had passed out, and according to the monitor, her heart was not getting enough oxygen. Shit! She’s not going to make it if I don’t do something. I was giving her as much plasma expander as I dared. I looked out the window. We were in the center of downtown, skyscrapers everywhere.

     Yee-haw! Here I go flying by the seat of my pants again.  I had administered Marrex over a hundred times and Humans always got roughly the same mix: half the blue box, a drop of the purple on, a smidgen of the orange and then topped off with the green stuff. No, not scientific but it was that or letting her die. I held my breath and injected her with it. Seconds ticked by without any change. Then her heart started throwing fewer nasty ventricular beats and her blood pressure came up.

     “Link with Base Medical Unit Established,” the computer’s annoyingly cheerful voice announced.

     Fabulous! Lot of good it does me now. Oh well, at least they’re not shooting at us anymore. Then I realized that I hadn’t heard any shots since we’d taken off and when I’d looked out I hadn’t seen anyone following. I peeked out again. Nothing.

     “Hey, Ron, how long ago did we lose them?” I asked since he was still driving like a maniac. He slammed on the reverse thrusters banging me against the side cabinet. He looked around frantically. Under different circumstances it might have been funny.

      Doctor MeLea, a Katian multi-racial specialist came on the video link. I gave her my report as quickly as possible so we could proceed with treatment orders. She twitched her tail and bared one of her fangs. “What do you mean you gave her a loading dose of Marrex? Without Base orders?”

     Great, yet another field save I’m going to get busted for. Damn. And I thought I had glossed over that little detail  well enough. I took a deep breath. “Look, you can write me up later. For now it worked and you can always give her an immuno suppressant when we get there. At least she’ll be alive for you to treat. Now, I’d like to keep her that way. So how ‘bout some orders?”

     Knowing what bad tempers most Katian had, I expected a good lashing. What I got was a feline version of a grin then some good sound medical advice. We got our patient stabilized and she even regained consciousness. She seemed dazed and could only tell me her name, Subrina. But she swallowed the Intesta-Seal okay, so for now she was out of danger. Dr. MeLea started to sign off when she asked, “By the way, what in the universe is that on your cot?”

     Embarrassed, I explained how we had been in the middle of a body transport when we’d been flagged down. Her eyes went wide as she adjusted her viewer for a better look. “Oh fur balls! That’s an Elmman!”

     “Well, was. Apparently he’s been dead for a couple weeks.”

     “I hope you’ve handled it with care; otherwise, you just might have to remove the stem.”

     That sounded way too personal for me, “Excuse me, doc?”

     “Do a full scan and send it over right away,” she ordered. I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, but I obeyed. As soon as she had the results, she announced, “It’s begun to molt.”

     No shit. All over my rig, I thought looking at all the pieces of bark and debris that covered the cot, the floor, and my uniform.

     “You are going to have to remove the seed and stem. Have you ever done this before?”

     "Done what before? I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

     “When an Elmman dies, its seed begins to grow. It’s an exact recreation of the Elmman. Real-life reincarnation. After the body decays to a certain point, the seedling must be removed and transplanted."

     This is not happening! "Ron, how far are we from Dock Med.?”

     He looked at his read out and brought the hovercraft to a full stop, slamming me against cabinets again. When he didn’t answer right away I knew we were in trouble. At first I thought our would-be assassins had returned, but when I saw my young partner’s face, it was obvious he’d screwed up. I put the doc. on hold. “All that F'n driving around trying to get away....” he started, “well, I got lost so I put the rig on auto-pilot....And it was taking us to the nearest hospital.”

     “Hospital? That won’t do us any good. Ron, we’re on a Katian world with a Human and now maybe an Elmman patient. Local hospitals aren’t equipped to treat other life forms. We have to take them to a Dock Med. Unit-”

     “I know that! I just forgot to tell the damn computer. Okay? I’ll reroute us and we’ll be there in a few minutes.” By the time he finished, he could barely choke out his words and even the tips of his ears glowed red. I felt too sorry for him to say anything when his “few minutes” turned out to be more like a half hour. However, I made a mental note to rub it in the next time he got cocky.

     “Um, doc. you were about to tell me how to take care of his seed or whatever...,” I said reestablishing contact with MeLea.

     “Yes, okay. The body should be ripe enough that you can just dig out the seed. But be careful. If you break the stem there’s no chance for transplantation. Speaking of...Since there’re no family members present, we’ll have to find some place else to nest the seed.”

     “Don’t look at me!”

     She laughed, then cleared her throat. “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re Human. No, you’ll have to put it in some dirt.”

     “Dirt?” I asked in disbelief. She nodded then informed me that now would be a good time to get some. I couldn’t leave my patients, so I grabbed an emesis basin and handed it to Ron, who rolled his eyes and pulled the rig over to grudgingly comply with the doctor’s orders.

     That done, he got us started again and I went to work. The doc. explained how to get through the bark and locate the seedling. I was wrist-deep in rotted wood when Subrina came out of her stupor and began to scream. Within a few seconds she started vomiting. I couldn’t blame her; it was definitely a ghastly scene. The smell from her getting sick all over my rig nearly made me sick.

     I managed to get the seed, along with its delicate stem, out without damage and bury it like the doc. told me to. With that done, I grabbed Subrina’s oxygen mask and tried to get her to put it back on and take a few breaths to fend off the nausea. She stripped off the mask and got sick again- this time all over me.

     In the back of my mind I heard MeLea calling me, but I was a little too preoccupied to pay attention. She became more insistent until I finally looked up at the heart monitor. Oh, Christ! She’s having a heart attack. The question was had the Intesta-Seal failed, letting her bleed so much her heart was ischemic or had all the excitement brought on a heart attack. I looked to the video link for help. We both knew how contradictory the two treatments were.

     “Treat both?” we said at the same time.

     I gave her Cardio-Dilate to treat the heart attack. When her blood pressure dropped, I gave her another dose of Intesta-Seal and Marrex to treat the bleeding. Around and around we went, keeping her semi-stable until an alarm went off on the scanner that monitored the seedling. “Well, doc.? Any suggestion?”

     “Oh, fur balls. Water! We forgot to give it water.”

     I reached into the cabinet and asked if sterile water would do. She gave me that “Don’t be an idiot” look. Of course, it would do. So I asked the next stupid question. “How much?”

     “Just enough to make the dirt moist. Fur ball, Jerusha, haven’t you ever had a garden or even a plant before?”

     Next came the sound of Subrina’s monitor again. Her heart had slipped into a ventricular rhythm. I didn’t need any doctor to tell me what to do. But by the time I had the Lidocaine III ready, she switched to a regular, though somewhat rapid rhythm. It quickly increased to two hundred beats per minute. I looked over to MeLea. Do I really want to try to mess with it?

     Reading my mind she answered, “How soon will you be here?” Ron signaled five minutes and I relayed it to her. “Let’s leave well enough-”

     Unfortunately, Subrina’s heart changed its mind yet again. Back to a ventricular rhythm. This time I didn’t give it a chance to switch back. I jabbed the Lidocaine III in and hoped for the best.

     The doctor nodded with approval as the lights of the emergency room came into view. The nightmare was over.

     Well, not quite.

     Outside the ER stood a full troop of Interplanetary Council Security personnel. I assumed they were there because of the shooting. Well, I was right, only they were after Subrina. “Your patient is under arrest,” a very mean looking Katian Security Chief explained in broken Basic.

     “By who’s orders!” I snapped. I had not just saved her life so they could execute her.

     “Per you boss, Ambassador Melore,” he said, handing me the orders so I could read them myself. Sure enough, Subrina had been shot while fleeing from a botched bombing attempt at a Katian government building. According to her extensive file, she was a complete xenophobic. A Human supremacist nut who was responsible for tons of terrorist’s acts.

     “She’ll be treated before she’s tried and executed,” the Security Chief said gently. As if that would make me feel better.

     He started to apologize for one of his people being stupid enough to shoot at us. Then this patient, who had been near death, flew off the bench seat and attacked the security detail. Not that she was any threat to them, but in the scuffle she knocked over the emesis basin full of dirt. They drug her into the ER kicking a screaming.

     Ron and I looked at each other then dove to the vomit covered floor, scooping the dirt back into the basin.

     “Jerusha?” a familiar voice called.

     I jerked my head up, striking it on the corner of the bench seat. Rubbing the wound, I turned to see Ambassador Melore standing there with one arm around a very concerned looking Elmman. Well, this is embarrassing, I thought as I realized what mess I must be. I quickly dismissed the idea. The Ambassador never cared much about looks just results.

     “Jerusha, I’d like you to meet Professor Licnic’s partner. Matric, meet Jerusha,” the Ambassador introduced us in proper Basic. We nodded to each other; then he explained, “You probably didn’t know it, but you have a very important passenger there.” He pointed to the basin. “That is professor Licnic’s seedling. He’s a leading scholar, poet and most important of all, peace negotiator for the Interplanetary Council. Thanks to you, he can be transplanted and regrown.”

     I just stood there too stunned to say anything. Matric reached over and took the basin, holding it tenderly while Dr. MeLea ran her scanner over it. She nodded her approval. “Licnic will live.”

     “Well, Jerusha, it looks like you may have headed off another interplanetary war. How does it feel?”

     I couldn’t answer. I had to go throw up. But even as I made a run for the bathroom, I had to admit to myself that sometimes this job was almost worth it. Even if it had been a hell of a night.

 

                         <END>