futuristic paramedic stories

Some Things Never Change Article

This story appeared in Hadrosaur Tales 9 back in 2000. It was the first story I ever sold. It's one of several futuristic paramedic stories inspired by my time working on an ambulance, but with a science fiction twist.   


Some Things Never Change  ©


Rebecca Inch-Partridge      

 ''Medic 51, Code Three for back pain times two weeks.''

The automated voice grated on my already raw nerves.  We'd only been back to the station just long enough for me to fall asleep. Damn, why do these idiots always call at three in the morning?  And what retarded computer dispatch program authorized a Code Three response for two-week-old back pain?

I fumbled with my boots, grabbed my medical belt, jabbed my penlight and other items back into my breast pocket and stumbled to the door without ordering the computer to illuminate. l had a bad enough headache without the fluorescent glare.  Naturally, I didn't make it to the rig without bumping into a few walls and banging my knee on the corner of the desk. It happened every time I switched stations. Just once I'd like to wake up and know where the hell I am.

My young and eager partner sat waiting with our run-down, out-dated hovercraft running. The call location already flashed on the computer. l selected a mild stim-drink from the on board dispenser and gulped gratefully. Kirt pulled out at max acceleration ensuring that more of it ended up in my lap than down my throat. ''I'm getting too old for this,'' I mumbled.

''What's that, Jerusha?"

 ''I said, 'Why don't you let the autopilot do the driving for once?"

 ''Nah, too slow.''

 I shook my head and sighed. Kirt was a male version of myself back when I first became a medic. Now I no longer got so much as a small adrenaline rush from Code Threes.

Despite the sirens that Kirt insisted on leaving on, according to procedure, I dozed off during the short ride over. Thank god for earplugs.

I felt no more alive when we arrived. Kirt loaded the anti-grav cot with all the standard--yet most likely unnecessary--equipment before we maneuvered our way into the much too small elevator and headed up. Why doesn't anyone ever think about emergencies when they build these senior living complexes?

The County Emergency Crew, formerly the County Fire Department, headed back out the moment they spotted us. ''Should have been a Code One, PA consult,'' the Captain muttered as he went by.

We set up the video conferencing equipment and made contact with the on duty Physician Assistant. All agreed that there was no need for an Emergency Room visit: vital signs were stable and our only finding during the exam was lower back muscle spasms. What do you expect when you're over a hundred and fifty? To no one's surprise the PA prescribed a mild muscle relaxant and a sleep aid. We made an appointment for her with her medical group for the following morning and headed back to station--after several minutes of refusing the lonely old woman's attempts at hospitality.

There was still a chance for a nap by the time we got in. I flopped into bed not bothering to remove my boots, medical belt or even all the junk in my pockets. ''Medic 51, Code Two. Overdose at Reagan Park.'' No matter how sleep deprived I was l couldn't help wondering, How the hell do you get Code Three for back pain and only Code Two for an overdose?

We were upgraded to Code Three en route. This time when we got on scene the County Emergency Crew remained too busy with the patient to notice us. Not a good sign. As we approached, I saw that they had the patient on a ventilator and were getting a second set of vital signs. l did a blood sugar level check; my partner took the report from the Captain. Half way through I cut him off- pissing off yet another County crew. ''I know Frank. He's a regular. Drinks himself into a stupor every Friday. Prepare the Toxic-can for injection while I make base contact''

Some things never change. Our First contact with extra-terrestrial life, a plague threatening to wipe out half the world's population and a war heading toward our solar system, and still Frank has to have his Friday night binge. Like we don't have anything better to do.

After two failed attempts to get through to our base hospital I went ahead and administered the alcohol antagonist. l hated asking ''Mother, may I'' for such basic stuff anyway. We gave him just enough to get him breathing on his own but not enough to wake him up. I'd been hit too many times by unhappy customers over the years. Just to be sure, Kirt restrained the poor old guy; he looked more like a mummy than a patient by the time my partner finished.

It took two nurses and three ER techs to get him all unfastened and transferred at the hospital. The on duty PA came in just as I finished giving the nurses my report. ''Why was the patient restrained when he's not even conscious?'' she asked.

Oh hell, a bleeding heart newbie. I glared at my partner, who was about to ''explain things.'' I decided for the sake of getting any rest that night I had better try a little diplomacy. ''Alcohol overdose. He's a regular and he's gotten combative after receiving Toxic-can before.''

Her throbbing temple looked like it would burst. ''You gave Toxic-can without base orders?"

How'd the hell she know I didn't have orders? Oh yeah, this is our base hospital. I'd gotten use to being stationed on the other side of the city. I never saw base except on-line. I knew there was a reason I didn't want to be transferred to this station. ''Communications were down and his respiratory system was totally depressed, so I went on disrupted protocols.''

She didn't say anything, but I knew it wasn't over. Great! Another field save that I'm going to get in trouble for. Not that I cared as long as we finally got some sleep.

Of course, I should have known better. Instead of going back to station, we spent the last three hours of our shift running all over the city, covering various zones because the financial gods had decided that it wasn't cost effective to staff a night car. Just when we thought we were safe, a mere four blocks from quarters and shift change, the call came in.

''Code Three unknown medical aid at the reception hall of Space Dock 83."

My partner and I exchanged puzzled looks. He keyed the mike, requesting a supervisor instead of dealing with the auto-dispatch program. ''Dispatch, this is Medic 51 we've just been given a call at the Space docks. Please be advised we're not certified for dock response. We have no protocols or equipment for treating alien races.

''Medic 51, dispatch is well aware of that,'' our Field Supervisor Todd, or ''the weasel'' as I called him' cut in. ''For now please continue your response.''

Medic 51, be advised there are no docks medics available. They've requested mutual aid. Apparently there has been a multi-casualty incident at the planetary conference. We'll try to obtain more info for you,'' the calming voice of dispatch promised.

Dispatch never did bother getting back to us. But lucky us, our illustrious, ass-hole, Field Stupid-visor went en route to our call. From where he we responding from, l hoped we might be able to get in, get our patient, and get out before Todd could screw everything up.

''What the hell is he?" Kirt muttered looking at our rather unique patient lying on the floor of the fancy reception hall. He had golden wings, four arms, and a glistening black mane, blue skin and a tail. I wasn't even sure if he qualified as humanoid.

"He's some kind of cross-breed,'' the dock medic/triage officer said curtly between taking hospital assignments and shouting over to the different crews who was going where with the dozen or so patients strewn about. ''You'll be transporting to St. Salina's,'' he said pointing to us.

I knelt beside the hybrid in awe. Damn, even unconscious, he was impressive. Unfortunately, I wasn't even sure how to check for vital signs, or what would be considered normal if I did manage to get a reading. I glanced around the formal looking reception hall. None of the other patients or bystanders looked much like him. ''Doesn't this group retain a doctor?" I asked.

The over-taxed triage officer barely spared me a glance. ''She was one of the first patients we shipped out of here.'' Then one of the bystanders came up and told him there were three more aliens feeling sick and led him to the far side of the room. He quickly became part of the chaotic rush of people who were scurrying back and forth accomplishing absolutely nothing.

So much for giving me any kind of a report on what the hell was going on here.

I cursed under my breath and turned to my partner who couldn't make anything of the readings from our medical scanners either. ''Patient, heal thyself'' he muttered looking to me.

Doubting that was going to happen, I snapped, "Set up a video conference with base. Let's see if they can suggest anything. It's going to be a long transport to St. Salina's.''

He made a rude, snorting sound. ''Yeah right, like they'll know anything'' he sighed but got to work.

I spotted the triage officer getting sucked up into patient care, completely abandoning his ''command post.'' Amateur. I shook my head and shouted, ''Hey, I do need some information here!''

''We think they were all poisoned at the dinner,'' he shouted back while triaging two more victims to the ''green'' area to join the other non-critical patients. While glad that he didn't try to unload them on us, I was not too impressed with his report. I gave up trying to get shit from him and started calling out for anyone that knew anything about our patient.

Then Todd made his grand entrance. My partner and I decided to grab our patient and make our escape before he spotted us. We had just gotten the hundred and fifty kilogram being onto our cot when the weasel called out, ''Hey wait! Take a couple of 'greens' with you.''

Damn. The extra people would only get in our way and slow us down even if they were just precautionary transports. Before Kirt went over to collect our passengers, l asked if he'd had any luck getting hold of base. He shook his head gravely.

If we didn't do something fast we would lose our exotic hybrid. l noted a change of skin color from light blue to gray. Alien or not I knew hypoxia when l saw it. I slapped a ventilator mask on him. Todd craned his neck to see what I was doing. Fortunately, he was too busy being bawled out by the dock medic for putting all additional units on stand-by, to bother with me.

Kirt returned with a short, freckled face, brown haired woman and an enormous cat-creature. Great, a Katian. Another alien l have no idea how to treat. Kirt gave a very brief report as we prepped for a fast departure. ''They both have mild upset stomachs. And she can translate for him.''

''Great let's go.'' Taking another look at our original patient, l added, ''Kirt, on our way out see if you can raise the med-unit here at the docks.'' Obviously, the beautiful cross-breed was never going to make it all the way to St. Salina's. Besides, no basic hospital would have a clue how to deal with him, or even the Katian for that matter. Even though the dock's medical facility was apparently over loaded, dammit, it was my patient's only chance.

At the elevator we were intercepted by personnel needing to ''borrow'' supplies for the treatment area finally being set up within the reception hall. We had to refuse to take any more patients with us several times. I mean, if our two passengers did turn out to be poisoned by some chance, we would have ended up dealing with three critical patients. Of course, we never mentioned that neither the Katian nor the woman had been served the main course yet. And from what we'd been able to overhear, only the delegates who had started eating their entrees had fallen seriously ill.

Once we were safely in the elevator, with the doors shut, I finally had a chance to ask the woman if she knew anything about our mysterious patient. She shook her head. ''I was just called in because I speak Katian.''

''Well what about him?" I asked pointing at the over grown feline.

After a brief exchange, she explained, ''NeLea says this is his first time with the delegation. So he doesn't really know any of the others. But the mix-breed looks part Katian, part bird-being... I think he means Sian and part Human. He also thinks that his delegation was served their dinners first and that all of them are either dead or pretty near dead.''

Kirt slammed his fist down on the computer. ''Piece of shit. Our transmitter is too out of date to interface with their fancy interstellar communications array.''

The woolly Katian shoved my partner aside and began doing some uninvited modifications to our comm-unit. Kirt was about to protest, but the display magically came on line complete with a Human med-tech on the other end.

I explained the situation and transmitted vital signs along with all the standard scans. Shocked the med-tech looked up from the readings and announced, ''Your patient is dying.''

''We guessed that much,'' I snapped. ''Get me someone who can do something about it''

By the time we reached the rig, a full multi-race specialist came on line. She rattled off several antidotes to the poison our scans had detected-none of which we carried. ''Well for your two precautionary transports just give them Digest Block. You do have that don't you?''

I nodded and rolled my eyes.

We got settled in the ambulance and I handed both our passengers, now seated on the bench seat, a bottle of the black sludge and a bucket just in case. Then it was time to get back to our real patient. I tried to talk the doctor into allowing us to transport to her facility there at the Space docks. With a sigh she explained that they not only had no beds left in the ER, but that the hall and even some of the closets were full of patients.

Kirt looked over his shoulder at me from the cab. I shook my head; our patient's vital signs were dropping. l had to assume, by the way he was looking, that the decreased pulse rate and blood pressure were not good news. Kirt slammed on the accelerator and put us en route Code Three. For the first time l appreciated his aggressive driving techniques.

My female passenger, on the other hand, did not appreciate all the jerking and swerving at all. She turned greener than an Elmman's sapling. Oh god. please don't barf in my rig. Please do not barf in my rig.

I turned up the vents, then turned my attention back to the multi-racial specialist. ''Okay doc, if you can't treat him there, how 'bout coaching me through the ABCs.''

It took her a second to realize I meant Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. ''All right. Let's see. First of all, decrease the respiratory rate on the ventilator by half but increase the tidal volume by double. Next, modify your lead placement so l can get an EKG on his right heart.''

''Right heart? As opposed to the wrong heart? What the--''

''He has two hearts. Here, set up your monitor leads like this," she said holding up a crude outline of a human and drawing three x marks on the chest area. I set up our spare leads, switched over, then looked up for her reaction. She continued with a nod, "Okay, that looks good. Now let's see, if you don't have the specific antidote for the poison...Well, what do you normally do for overdoses?'

''It depends on the type of overdose. If it's ingestion and the patient is conscious we usually give Digest-block, like we did for these two," I said jabbing my thumb back at the miserable looking pair in the back of the rig with me. ''If they're out, we treat them under the unconscious unknown protocol but--''

''That won't help. How about lavaging? Can you do that?"

My partner glanced back. Our eyes locked for a second but he knew better than to interfere. Stomach pumping was technically still within my scope, but our protocols called for it only for overdoses on specific tablets or capsules. He just shook his head and turned away. Just in time too, he had to swerve the hovercraft to avoid oncoming traffic. He shouted an apology, but I was too busy gathering the equipment necessary for the task. In my ten-year career I had only done this once, because it required a transport time of over twenty minutes.

If we could just go to the med-unit at the Space docks...

I set his head back, removed the ventilator mask and pried his mouth open. I withdrew immediately. ''His anatomy is completely different than anything I'm familiar with. I can't even locate the esophagus.”

''We have another problem. The Sure Masks on your ventilator didn't make a good seal with his airway. His stomach's so full of air it's interfering with respiration. You're going to have to actually intubate,'' the doctor replied while taking reports on several patients who had just arrived.

Intubate? Yeah right! That's not even in the protocols anymore. Where's she been for the last seven years? On a different planet, probably. Trying to sound patient, I informed her that all we had were Sure Masks. Both of us eyed the readings. His heart was starting to throw some nasty looking complexes and his oxygen stats looked pretty bad. I'll get my ass chewed on this one for sure. ''I'll improvise something,'' I grumbled.

I used the fitting from the tracheotomy kit and duct taped it to the lavage tube. Now I just needed one more thing. ''Uh doc? Where is the trachea?"

''It's the hole at the top, near the back of the mouth, behind the top plate-just like a Sian. It goes up to the nasal cavity first to avoid choking and for better filtering--''

I motioned for silence. I didn't need the Anatomy and Physiology lesson right then. It took a while to figure out how to position the patient so I could visualize the trachea. Looking at the jury-rigged tube in my hand then the weird curvature of his airway, l just shook my head. But when I looked to the communications screen the damn doc was gone.

My patient's fine, ice-blue skin had gone from gray to a dull, ghostly off-white. ''No, no you don't. Don't you die on me...'' I turned to the interpreter and asked, "Do either of you at least know his name?" She began vomiting in response. And she didn't even manage to get it all into the basin I'd given her. ''Okay, never mind. I'll find it myself.''

The identi-card in his front vest pocket gave me the name. It also had a bunch of official stamps and insignias, but at the time I didn't care anything about them. l had a name to work with. ''Okay, Melore. Just hang on. You hear me? Stay with us.''

Kirt sped up even more. He knew I only resorted to my cheer leading routine when we were about to lose the patient and there was nothing else to try. But then Melore's nostrils flared trying to suck in some air and gave me an idea. His nose. I'll just shove it down his nose.

With a sigh of relief, once his airway was secure, l hooked up the ventilator and prepared to lavage. Just as l introduced the tube to the only other opening in his mouth l could find, the doctor came back on line. "Better get some Paragon ready. The patient is part Katian. They tend to suffer severe bradycardia during this procedure. It'll take about six milligrams to keep his heart rate up.''

Frustrated, I threw up my hands. We didn't carry Paragon and l told her so. According to what I could make out from his vital signs we we almost out of time. Bowing her head, she shrugged and motioned me to continue. "You've got to decompress that stomach."

I gave her my ''no shit" look and suggested she tell me just where that might be. Then I applied firm pressure to the area she indicated to evacuate the gases and the stomach contents. The smell combined with the sight of the partially digested fluid made the pale, young interpreter start puking again. My partner's erratic driving didn't help the situation and when he slammed on the brakes to make a hard left the Katian lost it as well, throwing up all over my rig.


If that wasn't enough, despite all my prayers to a god I had not relied on in years, my patient had the nerve to crash. His heart rate dropped to practically nothing. ''Atropine?" l called out to the doc even as I tore open the box and prepared the dose for absorption.

''It's not as good as Paragon but it might work,'' she said, once more being pulled aside by one of her staff. When I went to put the patch over one of his hearts she shouted, ''What are you doing? It needs to be delivered intracardiac--''

''That's not within my scope of practice, doc,'' I growled. ''Any other suggestions?" Intubation was at least within my scope,  even if it wasn't in this county's protocol. And the lavage was just bending an existing protocol, with a doctor's authorization. But this would be practicing medicine without a license. That was going too far even for me. There had to be another way. ''Look I'll double the dose and place a patch over each heart. Maybe it'll do some good."

It didn't. After a couple minutes of no change she asked, ''How far out are you? Just get a cardiac pacer on him...make that two pacers on him and bring him in.'' She sounded resigned to the obvious and was being called to assist with all the patients they had there.

''Uh, doc we only have one pacer...but we're only three to five out-''

''No we're not,'' Kirt cut in. ''We're being ordered to divert back to the dock's med unit''

''What? What the hell--''

The doctor interrupted with a geyser of her own profanity. The interpreter informed the Katian delegate of the situation and he began meowing, growling, hissing and howling. Then he proceeded to vomit even more chunks of raw meat. The woman translated from beneath the oxygen mask I'd ordered her to put on when she had started turning green. ''NeLea's asking if you're just going to let him die. Is that how this world is?"

I glared at the Katian. Like l don't have enough to worry about without some damn cat-man trying to make an interplanetary incident out of this. I had no intentions of letting my magnificent hybrid patient ''just die.'' At this point, however, I was open to suggestions. I looked at the empty Atropine bottle still in my hand. ''Oh, hell doc, we still have a few drugs that go intravenously. I'll transfer our last vial into a syringe. Not quite intracardiac but it might work.''

Kirt stiffened and inhaled sharply. ''Jerusha? What are you doing?"

''Just keep your eyes forward. You don't know a thing about it. Okay?" I called back. He muttered something about me being a cowgirl-medic as I loaded the syringe. We only had four mg left. I just hoped it was enough. I found what I thought might be a vein. The doctor's shriek startled me so bad that I stabbed my own finger. Shit, I'm dead. No, wait it didn't inject. Thank god. It was the first thing to go right for me all shift.

On the screen the doctor grimaced, realizing what she had almost done. Releasing a long breath, she explained, ''If that's all the Atropine you've got, it'll have to go intracardiac. It's quite simple. There's a flap of muscle about three inches under the armpit. Just slice and lift--''

''You want me to do what?!''

''Look both of his hearts are going into ventricular rhythms. The Atropine has to go intracardiac or... Now, obviously I can't order you to do it. It's up to you-''

The connection dissolved. For a moment I hoped we were already back to the docks. Instead we were gliding over the overpass. ''The Emergency med unit is on the far side of the docks. Just hang on. We'll be there in a few minutes. Don't do anything stupid, Jerusha. It's not worth it."

While Kirt pleaded with me, I stared at the little syringe that could mean life for the man lying on my gurney. His second heart had changed to nothing but the ugly ventricular beats. Switching back to the left heart didn't make the picture any more promising. My career or his life. Oh well, I never was one for following the rules. Besides. I'm just about ready for a career change anyway. Hell, Izzy's Burger Palace is always hiring.


# # #


Kirt and I sat quietly in the nurse’s break room filling out reports and recovering from the pandemonium that occurred after our arrival at the med unit. There was nothing really to say to each other. What was done was done.

One of the nurses came in and announced, ''Ambassador Melore wants to meet the medics who saved his life.''

We both jumped out of our seats. ''He's awake! He's alive! Really?"

''Wait did you just say Ambassador'' I asked.

She grinned with that ''I know something you don't know'' twinkle in her eyes. She held the dramatic pause then answered, ''Yep. That's why they ordered that he be transported here. He's a real VIP, one of the members of the Interplanetary Council itself. And he wants to meet you.''

''He's really all right? I mean... he's recovered that fast?'' I stammered.

She waved for us to come see for ourselves. Halfway down the hall, my partner grabbed my arm and whispered, "Oh great. Just what we need the STUPID-VISOR." We pretended not to see him and made it to Melore's room.

Not only had the crossbreed survived, he seemed remarkably recovered. His skin's delicate blue hue had returned and his eyes shone with an intelligence that was truly captivating. As he regarded us, I understood what was so important about this man. You could expect miracles from him. People would follow him. Hell, I'd follow him across the galaxy myself. With a sincere smile he said, "I learned some of language of yours, English?"

''I learned very little Gestural.'' I signed back in what I knew of the interplanetary language.

He started gesturing at an alarming rate. Thankfully our woman interpreter, who looked much better now, translated it to English for me. ''It's nice to meet both of you. As you probably know my name is Melore. And you are?" We gave our names, which he repeated with the most enchanting accent. Then he continued through the interpreter, ''I owe you my life and those struggling for peace owe you a great debt of gratitude. Is there anything I can do to repay you?"

Under my breath I muttered, 'How 'bout a job?" To my dismay, the faithful interpreter translated my flippant comment before I could stop her.

''Done!'' Melore declared himself. Seeing that l was about to try to decline he insisted in broken English, ''My offer sincere. A multi-race paramedic training program begun. When finished there, I could use you on team of mine."

This is too good to be true. What's the catch? Knowing my luck I decided to be cautious but promised to consider it. We said our good byes and turned to leave. I took a deep breath and prepared to deal with our supervisor.

''Please do consider my offer seriously. Your talents would be very useful. I understand you went far beyond the call of duty to save my life." The interpreter rushed to finish before the door shut behind us.

Todd! Why did it have to be that weasel of a supervisor? He worked as the company's headhunter, helping to eliminate all the top step paramedics that the company didn't want to pay the ''big bucks." He had been after my hide for months. He didn't waste much time getting down here. Did he? Blood thirsty... ''Just remember Kirt, you had no idea what I was doing." I whispered. There was no reason for both of us to lose our jobs.

 Todd shook his pointy little head and started delivering his obviously contrived speech. ''Jerusha, l know you've always been a cowboy, or in your case a cowgirl, but you more than crossed the line this time. You completely obliterated it. No matter how good your intentions, the fact is you went out of scope. You were practicing medicine without a license. I'm afraid I'm going to have to suspend you pending a full investigation...'' He glanced up at me waiting for my response. "Why are you smiling at me like that? This is serious!"

Both Kirt and I burst into laughter. I could resist no longer. "Because I quit, you ass-hole! l got a better offer."

"WE... Partner. We got a better offer,'' Kirt said with a smile. "The chance to actually go into space... Wouldn't miss it for the world."

The End


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 ©


                    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?”


     “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.




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