Well, here's the first Jess/Rusty crossover. It's currently in construction, so check back often to make sure you've read the whole thing. the stuff in brackets <"stuff"> is radio transmissions rather than normal speech. There. The phone call is in place. DeckerM and I have been doing a little work on the storyline. This is a little slower than her normal production, because we have to co-ordinate her journal with my storyline. Which also requires spending time talking about dialog, how Jess would do things, and some of Jess's history. She says I'm evil for inspiring her to do more work on the YIS plotline. I'm used to it, lots of folks have said I was evil before. I recommend you read the Year In Seattle as well, to put things into perspective. -Hawk
<“HTR-1 this is Dispatch”>
<“HTR-1 On, Go ahead Dispatch.”>
<“HTR-1, we have a report of a fire at First and Main. Meet with Incident Command and Chopper 3”>
<“Dispatch, this is HTR-1, responding.”>
When Rusty arrived, there were already units from Seattle, Tacoma, and Fort Lewis on the scene. He negotiated his Fire Leviathan into a convenient position, and popped 4 drones, 2 helicopter-styled, and 2 lighter than air. The choppers were more flexible, but ran out of fuel. The LTA’s were less mobile, but could stay up as long as the balloons stayed inflated. As the drones lifted from the Leviathan, he “stepped” out of the rig in his Humaniform. The Humaniform was as mobile as a person, but with a few added features.
<“Incident Command, this is HTR-1”>
<”HTR-1, go ahead”>
<”Command, I’m on the scene, where do you want me?”>
<”HTR-1 rendezvous with Chopper 3 on Tac3, and conduct operations above the fire floor. You will take with you 4 of Citywide’s Medics to conduct any rescues they can. No risks, though, most of the folks are out. The fire’s between the 20th and 24th floors. We’re foaming the 19th floor, as I speak, but I need the 25th floor dealt with. The building’s fire suppression system is down, but you can access the standpipe system.”>
<”Command, received. Please switch standpipe to hi-density foam on my command.”>
<”Chopper 3 this is HTR-1 on Tac3”>
<”Go ahead HTR-1”>
<”I’m at the scene waiting for pickup. Do you have the medics on-board?”>
<”Roger, HTR-1, I have your signature on screen. I’ll set down in the middle of the intersection.”>
<”Chopper 3 I have you on radar. Awaiting your arrival.”>
Chopper 3 landed in the middle of the intersection, and Rusty put two tracked fire suppression vehicles in, and climbed on board. The featureless faces swiveled and locked on Rusty’s face. They were too professional to tie up the radio, but Rusty could tell that the thought going thru their heads was “What the heck is THAT??” The medics were dressed in “Infernonaught” contact suits, with spare air cylinders in hand-held racks. They had about 6 hours worth of air. The helmets contained the interfaces for the imaging systems built into the suits. Infrared, thermographic, sonar and radar overlay for the video feeds they carried on their backs. Each suit was uplinked to the ‘net, and had a human observer back at the station. That way, someone else was there in case the medics got into trouble, or needed backup quickly. It also gave Rusty 4 extra video feeds as he was scanning the building.
<”All set, Chopper 3, I added about a ton to your mass.”>
<”HTR-1, did you say a ton?>
The pilot was good. A ton of extra mass, and the updraft from the heat of the buildings didn’t make the chopper more than wobble a couple of times. The flight took a couple minutes, anyway.
<”I’m the new guy around here, so I’ll start. I’m HTR-1, originally from New York. That out of the way, my name’s Rusty, and I’m a rigged vat-job. I got that way as a gift from the somebody who was mad at me. What you’re looking at are my remotes, my body’s safely down in the truck.”>
Heads nodded. One by one, they introduced themselves.
<”One. I’m Jess, senior MotoMedic. I’ve done a few smaller fires.”>
<”Two. Ray. I was with Fire/Rescue before Citywide bought our contract.”>
<”Three. I’m called Smiley”>
<”Good. Got it. Have any of you ever worked with a remote team before?”>
Jess shook her head. <“Nope. We don’t do much fire to begin with. This is our first real one. Mostly we only do this in training.”>
<”OK. Your job is to get any people out. That’s it. You don’t do suppression, that’s why I have 3 remotes going with you. If you’re in trouble, just relax, I’m watching over your shoulder. Everything you see, I see. But don’t make me come get you, your boss will be mad at me. Simple, right?”> All four heads nodded. <”I have full schematics and plans for the building, I’m loading them to your helmets now.”> The chopper hovered, and Rusty looked out the open door. As the chopper descended, Rusty jumped out the door, feet above the roof. The medics grabbed their spare air and jump bags and unloaded from the chopper. Rusty hauled the tracked vehicles out of the chopper, and put them on the roof. They immediately went to the access door for the roof, and waited for Rusty to open it for them.
Emmory stepped between the remotes and the door, and placed his hand on the knob.
<”Wait.”> transmitted Rusty. <”Slow is fast, in this game, remember? Let the TFV’s do the work.”> The first tracked vehicle extended an arm to the door, and tried the knob. Locked. It extended a second arm, and placed a ring-charge around the lock. <”Everybody back.”> said Rusty. <”Fire in the hole”>, and the lock disappeared in a flash. The first TFV stuck a hook in the hole and pulled the door open. <”All clear. Give the TFV a second to make sure there’s nothing hanging around for us.”> The medics looked at each other as smoke billowed out the door.
The heat increased as the little team of medics and remotes descended to the fire floor. Rusty watched through their helmets and the remotes as they cleared each floor. The LTA’s and the 2 helicopter remotes showed that the fire was advancing more slowly than usual. They found 3 deckers jacked in on the 23rd floor, and another 5 on the 21st. They were forced to physically unplug them from the matrix, and haul them up the stairs, using the TFV’s to do the hauling. The TFV’s were designed with flat surfaces on their tops with something like that in mind. Emmory and Ray stayed with the patients on the roof, treating them for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as the shock induced by being forcibly unjacked. Smiley and Jess rode the TFVs down and hooked up with Rusty.
<”Guys, the fire’s right below us. Let me foam this area, and we’ll take a look at the next floor.”> He hooked into the standpipe by the elevator, and switched over to the Command frequency. <”Command HTR-1”>
<”Command on, go ahead.”>
<”Command, I have eight patients on the roof being tended by medics two and four. They’ll need backup and more oxygen. I have medics one and three with me and we’re ready to enter 20. Any word on the building’s systems?”>
The remotes laid down a thick layer of foam along the walls, and led the team down the hallway. He passed a closed door, and Jess paused to open it. A six foot tall wall of fire came out of the door, and hung before her. The following TFV fired a blob of foam at the door, and the fire retreated back inside the room. Flames leaped crazily around the room. Jess sat down hard on the top of the TFV, as it pushed her forward. Behind her, the nozzle of the hose protruded through a pop-up turret, and it pushed foam into the room. As the foam entered the room, the fire intensified, drying the foam out almost as the pump could push it out. The humaniform grabbed Jess off the top of the TFV, and added it’s output to the TFV’s.
<”Command, HTR-1. Switch to just water, right now.”>
<”HTR-1, one moment. What’s the matter?”>
<”Something’s eating my foam. I want water right now!!!”>
The stream changed from a flow of foam to the thicker stream of water. Both remotes converged their streams at one point, and with a flash, the fire went out. The rest of the floor went out much more quickly, and within an hour, men were overhauling the floor, and forensics was examining the bodies. The medics vanished with the ones they could help, and police tape cordoned off the area.
Rusty stood there, looking in the room, at what had been the company’s mainframe. It was a melted lump of plastics, gold and silicon. It was a complete loss. And why were the dead there?
Jess was tired of wondering, so she called the only person she knew who could help her figure out what she saw in the fire.
“Seattle Fire Dispatch, is this an emergency?”
“Nope,” Jess replied. I’m looking to leave a message with one of your firemen, his designator is HTR-1.”
“That's Rusty. He’s out right now, can I take a message?”
“Yeah, have him call my LTG …” The rest of the conversation held no surprises.
The phone rang in Jess's pocket. Because she was hooked into the headphone jack in her helmet, it rang right through. "Go Ahead" she said, waiting for the light to change.
"Hey Jess, it's Rusty. You called?"
"Yeah, I'm driving, so if I don't answer right away...." said Jess, as she cut out in front of a Bulldog cargo van.
"Gotcha." said Rusty "I know the feeling. I'm driving too, downtown."
"Well," Jess began, "I was wondering how the fire turned out."
Rusty paused. "Pedestrians. 5 points apiece. Right. It's an ongoing investigation, so I can't talk about it. I was wondering if you wanted to get together for coffee, tho."
Wondering what Rusty was up to, Jess said "How about a beer? I think I owe you one, after the call. I get off at 1700."
"That's not possible," Rusty laughed. "I'm too frightening to most bar-life. However, there's a Quickee Mart over on Tacoma street that I have been seen in. Meet me there."
Jess nodded. "I'm not far from there. Meet you there in a moment."
When Jess arrived, the Leviathan was parked around the corner from the Quickee Mart. She parked her bike in front of it, figuring that the bulk would keep anything from smacking into it, and that the firetruck's security systems would keep it safe. Rusty was already inside, looking around.
"I never buy anything but oil here, just because it freaks the checkout guy." Rusty said conspiratorially, when he saw Jess. "What's on your mind?"
Jess looked at him oddly. "What's with the rig? I thought we were going to meet for coffee? Is the coffee that bad here?"
Rusty tipped his head to the right. "Sorry, thought you knew. I'm a vat-job. I'm on life-support, because so much of my body's missing. The only thing that saved me from being sent to the organ banks was my IAFF insurance. My body's always in the truck, my Banshee, or the doctor's. Most of the time I stay right in the truck, sleeping between calls. I don't have a lot to do when I am off, so it doesn't really matter."
Jess looked at him uncomfortably. "So my asking you to go for a beer..."
"Couldn't happen" Rusty finished for her. "But anyplace you'd see a firetruck is fine. I am allowed to take breaks."
Jess nodded as she added "creamer" to her soycaff. She looked at Rusty, he had a can of 30 weight oil in his right hand. "But what's the...." A grin of comprehension crossed her face. "C'mon, Tin Woodsman, let's cash out and take a break."
Rusty followed Jess back to the truck and her bike. He sat down on the front bumper, and put the can of oil on his knee, making sure that the label was where folks could see it. Jess sat down on the seat of her bike, facing him. "What happened, is that it was arson. How or why, we don't know. Do you know something the investigators don't?"
Jess paused, wondering if she was going to be believed. "I saw....eyes... in the fire. When I opened the door, that burst of flame...looked at me."
Rusty looked at her. "The tapes showed something going on, but I was busy dealing with knocking it down." He paused. "That would make sense, though. It was like the fire was restrained, somehow. A fire elemental could do the damage, but not let it get out of hand. And why the foam didn't slow it down."
Jess drank from her cup, pausing to gather her thoughts. "That would also explain why the package wasn't burned badly, but the bodies were. Did they ever identify the victims?"
Rusty shook his head. "Nope, they were SINless. One was wired for a deck, and the other 3 were gunmen, from what forensics says. The question is, who sent the package? The label has no return address on it, but it was posted from someplace downtown. Forensics is trying to dig up a serial number on the deck, to track it back to a manufacturer, but they weren't hopeful."
Jess frowned. "But why destroy the deliverymen? You'd be better off just letting them go back into the shadows, getting them killed would only ruin your repuation as a contractor."
Rusty raised the can of oil to where his mouth would have been and waved to a pack of kids going home from school. "What if they 'knew too much'? What if they were part of the dressing of a carefully crafted display?"
Jess sat up, quickly. "Then getting rid of the deliverymen would tie up all the loose ends, except for the mage who summoned the elemental." She drank from her soycaff again. "I'll wager that a mage turned up dead in the past week too."
Rusty looked up from his can of oil. "I'm checking now. Several SINless were sent to the county morgue last week." He paused, waiting for the data to spool into his deck. "One body was unaugmented, and was shot from the front, at close range. Which means he knew his killer." Another pause "I'm asking for a copy of the coroner's report, that will have all the details.
Jess nodded. This smelled bad to her, since she could smell. "Can we find out more about this guy?"
Rusty nodded. "Probably, but this will take some work. They're still trying to figure out who he was. Probably easier, since they tend to keep better track of mages than they do gun-bunnies."
Jess finished her soycaff, and paused. Her radio came on, for a motor vehicle accident on the expressway. "Whoops!" she said, "time to go to work." She tossed the empty cup in the trashcan nearby, and settled her helmet. "Give me a buzz if you get anything."
Rusty nodded his metal head. "I'll dump the coroner's report to your cellphone, after I've had a chance to look at it. Be careful, drive sideways."
Jess nodded, and took off on her bike, lights and siren going.
Rusty's Humaniform stood in the ruins of the offices that he'd put out two days before. The company that used to operate out of here was named "ComSynch", and they designed interface jacks. He had a dozen sniffer-drones covering every square inch of the floor and walls, looking for more clues. So far, nothing. No accelerants were used to set this fire. The remnants of the package had a splash of mud on it, and forensics was reviewing that. The arson investigation team hadn't found anything, either, but based on the patterns of the fire, they were labelling it Arson.
The lab reports on the bodies was interesting. The unrelated homicide turned up to be relatively mundane, except for the scorch marks on the clothes, and the assorted pyrotechnical supplies in the fire-resistant long coat the cadaver was wearing when he was found.
The gunmen's cadavers were unremarkable as well. All had cheap firearms, and showed signs of uniform combustion. Which meant that they were cooked on all sides, evenly. Not bad, if you're a roast, but if you're a person, it would have been quick, at least. The decker also was cooked from the outside, just like the gunmen. The lungs showed signs of being damaged as well, which means that they probably inhaled the flames. The bodies also showed the normal amounts of recreational pharmeceuticals that the medical examiner expected.
Rusty dialed Jess's number, looking for the right contacts in this new city.
"Hello???" answered Case, sleepily. "It's five o'clock in the morning. This had better be good."
"Sorry" said Rusty, sheepishly. "It's a friend of Jess's, named Rusty. Um, would you just tell her I called?"
Several hours later, Rusty's phone rang. It was Jess.
"What's up?" Jess asked. "What can I do you for?"
"You've been around here longer than I have. Do you have a friend in the morgue? Oh yeah, and sorry for waking your boyfriend up."
"Morgue's downtown, if you want I can call Dr. Chen for ya. As for Case," she shrugged at the screen, laughing. "It was bound to happen. He'd just gotten in from an all night stakeout and probably wasn't exactly functional. Someone always manages to call him right about then. Sorry it had to be you."
Rusty paused. "He's a cop? Good, because I was wondering where we were going to find one."
Jess perked up. "Cop? Try Fed-- and has it gotten that far yet?"
"Not really," Rusty replied, "but I don't like to stomp on folk's toes if I can help it. And I'm not really a good people-detective-type. My designator, HTR-1 means 'High Threat Response -1'. I'm really a cop/fireman hybrid. They send "me" where they don't want to send people."
Jess paused. "And here I thought that's what they had us for..."
"Nah, you leak more than I do when you get a hole in you, and you've got a better union than my remotes. And don't you go giving them any ideas." Rusty replied. "More like I was sent to deal with the fire from above, and anything else that they didn't know about, without risking any more lives than necessary. They needed your team to get any lost survivors out, something that would tie me up too much to do my main job of fire-fighting. Besides, I scare the heck out of people who aren't prepared to meet me."
"Makes sense," she agreed, then after a pause added, "So what do you need from the ME's office?"
"The autopsy reports don't show anything interesting." Said Rusty. "I expect there to be more clues. Also, I want the serial number off the decker's jack. Maybe it will help us find the manufacturer, and through the manufacturer, the owner's identity."
Jess nodded. "I'm working today, you want to meet me down in Dr. Chen's office on..." She paused, looking at her calendar "the 23rd, 24th or 25th?"
"The 23rd. I'll call your dispatcher and tell them that you're meeting me to assist with the case. I can get away with that. You get to scratch the curiousity itch and get paid for it too!"
Jess grinned, "I didn't realize you had those sort of connections."
"How's after lunch sound?" asked Rusty.
"Sounds like a plan." and Jess grinned. "My boss is going to love this..."
After Rusty broke the connection with Jess, he noticed a bit of commotion at what used to be the entrance to the offices. He walked over to the door, to look over the KnightErrant officer controlling entrance.
"I don't care who you are," the officer was saying. "My orders are to preserve the integrity of this crime scene."
"But this is my office!" complained the other person. "I need to see what's been destroyed!"
"A crime has been comitted in this office, and four people are dead. Until we're done collecting the evidence we need, nobody goes in or out" stated the officer.
"Officer Brooks, what seems to be the problem?" asked Rusty, coming over. The civilian doing the protesting looked at Rusty's 6 foot tall remote, dressed in fireman's turnout gear in shock.
"Hi, Rusty. This is Mr. Hargrove. He is the owner of ComSynch, and he wants to look over the damage done. However, I don't have orders covering this." replied Officer Brooks.
"Thank you, officer. Mr. Hargove, would you please come with me?" said Rusty, pointing towards what was left of the elevator lobby.
Without saying anything, Mr. Hargrove led the way to a cleaner section of the lobby.
"Thank you, Mr. Hargrove." began Rusty. "My name is Rusty Williams, and I'm one of the firemen who helped put out the fire. What information are you looking to find?"
"First off Mr. Williams, thank you very much for doing your best to protect my offices. I'm trying to figure out how much damage was done, and based on what I've seen, it appears to be a complete loss. Are you sure there wasn't a better or faster way for you to put the fire out?"
Having dealt with upset owners before, Rusty didn't lose his temper. "No sir, there wasn't, because there were some extenuating circumstances involved. I'm not currently at liberty to say, because there is an ongoing investigation. However, as soon as I have something I can tell you, I'll let you know. May I have your LTG number, to facilitate contacting you?"
Mr Hargrove gave Rusty a business card "Here's my card. Please, if you find anything, let me know."
"Of course." replied Rusty. "I have a couple questions for you, tho. Do you know of anyone or any group that might have been...unhappy with your company? Someone who might have done this?"
"Well there are lots of competitors in this market. JackLok is our biggest competitor, and everyone knows they do a lot of underhanded stuff to cut competitors out of the running. Aside from that, I couldn't put a name on someone who might have wanted us out of business."
"Thank you very much, then sir." concluded Rusty. "My office will call you when I can release the scene to you."
"But what about..." protested Mr. Hargrove, until Rusty raised his hand.
"But nothing, sir. I have a responsibility to execute, and nothing will get in my way. Thank you for your time."
Rusty turned back towards the remains of the offices, and the other remotes.
Hargrove stared at Rusty's back. "I have friends in high places!" he whined.
"I'm sure you do. And when one calls me, I'll explain to him how you wanted to contaminate a crime scene." Rusty didn't even look back at Hargrove.
Copyright James F. Rossé II, 2000