Difficult position

Night had fallen across both North and South Carolina. Up at the sinkhole, bright floodlights had been brought out so that International Rescue could continue its work. Each worker had taken a brief break for supper, a hot meal provided by a restaurant further down the mountain. So far, twelve of the fifteen cars had been examined, and nine survivors found. Scott found that he had to move the second recovery unit and the mobile winch to the other side of the sinkhole in order to get the survivors out of the cars and the cars out of the pit. Three more to go, he thought. Then we can quit. The clouds were still making visibility difficult, but John and Gordon had lights on their helmets so that they could see well enough.

Scott was concerned about the continued instability of the ground beneath the pavement. Several times during the rescue, small slides had been triggered, bringing mud and rocks down into the pit. No one had been hurt by the slides, but Scott felt it was only a matter of time until someone was.

"John to Scott." John's muddy face filled the tiny viewscreen on Scott's telecomm.

"Go ahead, John."

"Survivor ready for transport." John sounded exhausted.

"FAB, John. Winching up now." Scott moved the winch up slowly. In a few moments, the stretcher appeared at the edge of the sinkhole, carrying an elderly woman. He used a big hook, a shepherd's crook-like affair, to reel the stretcher in. The helpful hands of the local rescue units reached out to take the stretcher as Scott detached it from the hook. The lady looked up into his face briefly, murmuring, "God bless you, young man," to him before she was taken away.

"We need all the blessing we can get," Scott muttered to himself. Suddenly, the mobile winch shifted beneath him. He grabbed hold of the nearest pylon, the shortest one, as the truck lurched down at one corner.

"Look out below, Gords!" Scott shouted to his brother. A good-sized chunk of the asphalt, as well as mud and rocks, dropped towards Gordon, who instinctively put up his arms to shield his head. Scott heard a muffled cry and cursing from below him. Then nothing.

"Gordon? Gordon!" Scott shouted into his telecomm. The only reponse was a moan.

"Scott. Winch me up so I can see him." John's calm voice broke through Scott's rising panic. Carefully, Scott edged back along the truck bed to the winch controls. He reversed the engine on John's winch, slowly bringing John up to Gordon's level.

"A little more, more, just a bit more. Okay! I see him!" John coached Scott. Gordon was cradling his left arm with his right, bending his shoulders over as far as his harness would let him.

"Gords!" John called over to him. "Where does it hurt?" Gordon turned slightly toward John's voice.

"J-John? I've broken my left arm. My neck hurts, too," he called back, his voice tight with pain.

"Okay, Gordy. We'll get you out of here," John assured him. He spoke again into his telecomm. "Scott, Gordon says he's broken his left arm and he's complaining that his neck hurts, too."

Scott closed his eyes and sighed in sympathy with his little brother. Then he carefully climbed down from the back of the winch truck and got into the cab.

"John, I'm going to move the winch truck forward a bit so that one tire isn't hanging over the edge. Then I'm going to get the first aid equipment and come down on the middle winch with a stretcher. I'll have to backboard him somehow." Scott used his telecomm to alert Virgil and Brains. "Virg, Brains, I need a harness and helmet, the full medikit, and a backboard. Gordon is hurt."

"FAB, Scott." Virgil replied. Scott watched as Virgil and Brains abandoned the Recovery vehicle and ran for the pod to gather up the requested equipment. While they were scurrying around in the pod, Scott took a long look at the situation and requested one more piece of equipment. "Virgil, grab two mini-winches while you're at it."

"FAB, Scott."

Scott called to John. "I'm going to winch you up, John. I'll need your help in getting Gordon in a stretcher." He started the winch without waiting for an answer. Virgil and Brains came running over to the truck, arms full of equipment.

"Okay, Virgil. You get in the cab, ready to move the truck if the ground shifts again."

"FAB!" Virgil jumped up into the cab.

"Brains, I want you to lower the stretcher down on the middle winch. Put the backboard in the basket and hang the medikit on the hook."

Scott quickly put on his helmet and harness as he spoke. He grabbed the retrieval crook. Brains got busy putting the stretcher on the middle hook and adding the backboard and medikit. Then Scott attached a mini-winch to Gordon's pylon, about a foot back from the main pulley. He signaled to John to do the same with the middle pylon. The mini-winches were designed to work in places like caves or mines, where none of the other retrieval equipment would fit. Each one was operated by a remote control.

"Okay, I'm going down. Brains, lower the stretcher until I say stop. John, you're with me."

"FAB, Sc-scott!"

"Coming down now, Scott."

The stretcher moved in a little circle as it was lowered down. John kept an eye on it, making sure the lines wouldn't twist. Finally the brothers came down to Gordon's level. Scott was behind him, and John a few feet in front of him.

"You okay, Gords?" Scott asked.

"Not really, Scott," was the answer.

Good! He's responding! Scott observed. Gotta get him out before he goes into shock!

"Okay, Gordy. This is what we're going to do. First, immobilize your neck. John, pull a cervical collar out of the medikit for me?"

"FAB, Scott." John took the medikit off the hook and opened it in the stretcher basket. He retrieved the cervical collar and handed it to Scott. Scot wrapped it gently but securely around Gordon's neck. Then he took a good look at his brother's arm.

The break looked bad; a compound fracture of the ulna. One end of the bone peeked out through a laceration in the skin. John gave Scott some gauze and tape to try and cover the wound, then handed him a splint. Scott immobilized it as best he could.

"Now for the backboard. John, can you slide it over to me?" John hung the medikit up again and slipped the backboard out of the stretcher, extending it to Scott. Scott grabbed beyond Gordon's body for the top handle of the backboard. He pulled a climbing clamp from a pocket and used it to hang the backboard on the winch hook behind Gordon's harness. He reached the crook over to John. "When I've strapped him in, use this to grab the bottom handle and draw it to you."

"This is not going to be easy, Scott," John warned.

"I know, John. But I don't have any better ideas." He turned the hook so both the board and his brother turned toward him as one. Then he began to fasten the restraining straps.

"We'll make these secure and then get you into the basket." Scott kept his tone light as an encouragement to Gordon. "Okay, John. I'll help you get that hook through the bottom handle." That done, John pulled the backboard over and up toward him, grabbing the handle with both hands. Scott reached for the stretcher. He pushed and maneuvered it so the end of the backboard would rest in the basket once John let go of his end.

"Is it secure over there, Johnny?" Scott asked. John gave him a thumbs up.

"Brains, pull the stretcher up slowly." Scott told the engineer. Slowly, the stretcher and the backboard aligned. Scott winched himself up enough so he could pull his end of the backboard and Gordon's harness off the winch hook. Then he gently pushed the backboard all the way onto the stretcher.

"Whew!" Scott exclaimed as he watched John put a space blanket over Gordon and fastened brother, blanket, and backboard securely in the basket. Scott called up to the engineer again. "Now winch the stretcher all the way up, Brains. Slow and easy!"

"You're going to be okay, Gordy." Scott murmured. Gordon opened his amber eyes for a minute, looked up at Scott, and smiled just a bit. Then he closed his eyes again.

The winch slowly pulled Gordon up to ground level. Scott notified Tin-Tin that they needed an ambulance to take Gordon to a hospital. Then he turned to John.

"How much more?" he asked.

"Two more cars," John replied. Scott sighed.

"Let's finish the job."

Bekkah sat down on the bedroom floor with her children, her back supported by the end of the bed, ready to read to them. The book was now Ivanhoe, a historical continuation of The Adventures of Robin Hood that the family had just finished. Joey, her youngest, snuggled up next to her, while her older boy, Terry, leaned on her from the other side. Her daughter, Chell, lay belly down on the bed and looked over her mother's shoulder from that vantage point.

"Mommy, when are we going back to the Island?" Joey asked.

"I'm not sure, Joey. All your uncles and even Auntie Tin-Tin are out at a rescue and have been all day. Mr. Tracy couldn't tell me when they would be finished. When they get back, Mr. Tracy will call me and we'll make arrangements to fly to the Island."

"It's been good to see our Nana and Papa and Grammy and Grampy, but I miss the tidal pool," Terry sighed.

"Figures you'd miss the fish and not the people," Chell commented snidely.

"That's enough, Michelle," Bekkah said sternly. "Do you want to read this, or go right to bed?"

"I want to read it!" Chell replied, surprised at her mom's reaction.

"Then make things right," Bekkah ordered.

"I'm sorry, Terry," Chell said, defeated.

"I forgive you, Chell." Terry got up on his knees and hugged his sister around the neck.

"Agh! You're choking me!"

"Enough, you two." Bekkah picked up the book, and began the new story.