During the school holidays in June, 2005 Full Lieutenant Gordon Mannheim and Full Lieutenant Angelson are posted to the Royal Rescue Service, the Fishers, as observers so they can gain some knowledge of how the Fishers operate. They’re posted to D Company of the Gophers, the 2nd Fishers, and are assigned to 6th Platoon. D Company is based, and operates, in northern Berant where they cover the top quarter of the country up to the Sharten Mountains. On the first day Gerry and Angie are shown all of the equipment, and they ask a lot of questions about the capabilities of all the medical equipment. The platoon commander, Junior Lieutenant Peters, is surprised at Gerry’s age, and is further surprised to learn both are qualified doctors.
On the fourth day they’re with the platoon on roving patrol near the rural town of Sharteen, which is close to the eastern corner of their area. It’s only twelve kilometres south of the northern border and about the same in from the coast. This town of just over one thousand residents services an area of over nine thousand five hundred people with all the school, medical, police, fire, and recreational facilities for the area.
They get a call of a building collapse with people trapped inside. They arrive, to find the collapsed building is the recently opened new middle school. Luckily the majority of the students were outside of the building at the time it collapsed, but there are still thirty-three children and two teachers unaccounted for. The Gophers arrive ready to do what they can, but heavy equipment is needed, because the school is built out of concrete slabs.
Police and locals are crawling all over the place trying to help, but are totally uncoordinated. This scenario isn’t in any of their training manuals so Lieutenant Peters has no idea of what to do. Gerry nods at Angie, she immediately snags the unit medics and starts preparing the medical equipment to be dragged through the rubble. Grabbing a loudspeaker Gerry calls for quiet, orders everyone off the site, and to gather on the road nearby.
Peters is stunned by his decisiveness, so are most of the rest of them. He orders the people to form up across the road in groups: those with large building construction or design experience, medical experience, general search and rescue experience, and general labour. He orders the police to control access to the site, and to keep out all except those approved by the Guards. He calls for people who know of anyone with heavy equipment or large tractors to contact them, and ask them to bring them to the site. Medical people are to speak to the senior Fisher medic, and to stand ready to treat injured when they’re found. Those with construction knowledge are to discuss what things are likely to be like under the slabs they can see. The rest to await orders. Turning to the platoon radio operator he says, “Call command, we need some heavy lifting helicopters and people with experience in this type of work.” The man nods yes, and gets on the radio.
Gerry grabs a spray can of paint, and starts to slowly walk his way over the wreckage. He stops a few times to spray marks on the cement, with numbers beside them. When Peters tries to walk onto the site he waves him back. It’s hard enough locating them with his empathy with so many strong emotions from the spectators. He’s soon finished, but he can only locate twenty-nine of the missing thirty-five people, leaving six still unaccounted for. Walking over to Peters he says, “Those painted marks are directly above where people are trapped. The numbers represent those in each group.” Peters stares at him with wide eyes, “I’m an empath, I can feel their emotions, and they’re radiating fear, hard.” Peters slowly nods. “By the looks of it there may be a crawl way in at the side over there. I’m going to try it. You get with the construction people to work out the quickest way to get through at the three points marked. Then get them to work out how to do that with reasonable safety.” Peters nods, and heads over to the construction people to discuss the situation with them.
The radio operator is signalling for attention. Gerry goes over to him, the operator says, “Sir, I’ve spoken to command, and they can’t organise any helicopters until after the Captain gets here in about an hour.”
With a grim expression Gerry says, “Give me the radio and switch to General Tactical Network Four.” The operator does, and Gerry says into the radio microphone, “Clay Comm, urgent. Clay Comm, urgent.” The radio operator’s eyes go very wide. He’d get into big trouble for what the Lieutenant is about to do.
At Clay Comm, the Claymore Command Communications Centre, operator Mary Williams hears the call, and sits up. She responds, “Clay Comm on Tac Net Four, go ahead.” The shift supervisor has seen her action and is linked in to listen, too.
Gerry says, “Clay Comm, Eggs Whisky, Hotel, Mike Six. Over.” Both the radio operators are plugging the scramble circuit command into the radio while he speaks.
Mary replies, “Clay Comm copies, Eggs Whisky, Hotel, Mike Six. Over.” She hits the activation button about the same time as Gerry’s radio operator does. “Clay Comm, scrambled on Tac Net Four, are you with me? Over.”
“Affirmative, Clay Comm, Falcon Nine copies.” Both Mary and the radio operator sit up more, the falcon designation is for agents of the King only, and Falcon Nine already has a good reputation. “I’m with Gopher Delta Six, in Sharteen. We urgently need heavy helicopters to lift concrete slabs off trapped school children, please arrange. Over.”
“Falcon Nine, Clay Comm copies, need heavy helicopters to lift concrete slabs off trapped children in Sharteen. Will organise assistance for Gopher Delta Six. Wait.” She looks over to see her supervisor on the radio, and waving at her to wait.
A moment later her supervisor comes on line to say, “Falcon Nine, Clay Comm. Peri Three Delta has three birds heading your way now. Civilian contractors in Berana have two heavy duty birds fuelling up now, expect to be airborne in fifteen. Over.”
“Clay Comm, Falcon Nine, copies. Three Blackbirds inbound and two civilian heavy birds leaving Berana in fifteen. Thanks. Out.” To the operator he says, “You never heard a word.” The operator grins, and nods yes.
Walking over to Angie at the medical support vehicle Gerry says, “There’s a way in for someone small enough.” She nods her understanding, and hands him a field trauma pack to carry. She nods at another of the Gopher team, Corporal Diane Jenkins, she’s very small and thin as well. The three of them head to the possible entrance point while carrying two packs each. Three of medical gear, two of equipment that should help them getting through, and one of food and drinks that’ll likely be needed by those trapped under there.
He glances at Peters. He has crews working carefully with power drills to cut holes in the concrete slabs where Gerry marked them. He says, “Tell Peters he should be OK to go like that for the first few slabs, but to take extra care after that.” Angie nods yes. After placing her packs beside the entrance hole she goes to speak to Peters.
Gerry climbs in then Diane hands the packs through, and follows. They start crawling about under the slab, heading toward the largest group of children. Each is dragging three packs from their belts using one and a half metre nylon belt lines. Gerry is using his empathy sense to guide them. A few times they stop to knock some materials out of their way. After ten minutes they reach a point where they can see a group of children with a teacher stuck in a pocket created by two side walls that didn’t fully collapse. The hole they’re looking through isn’t big enough to crawl through.
They pass one of the medic kits in, and the teacher starts treating the children under Gerry’s directions while Diane is enlarging the hole. Several minutes later the hole is big enough, and they climb through. Gerry gives each child a full examination, and gives a few some drugs to take. He tells them people are working their way down, and to keep well away from the slab above them, because the rescuers will need to use power tools to cut through. He considers sending the bulk out the way they came, but Peters informs him, over the radio, his entrance hole has collapsed. He instructs Peters to have someone drill down at this point with a long drill bit. He does, and some minutes later the bit comes through. Using the radio he tells them to stop. When it stops turning he pushes it up flush with the slab. He tells them to mark the bit at the slab level, and that will tell them how far they have to come. They do so, this group is under two and a half metres of ruins.
Gerry moves them away from where the drill hole is, because the rescue people will dig down around it. He passes the information onto Peters. They now know they can go flat out cutting through at this site.
He gives some medical supplies to the teacher because she’s first aid trained, and all the injuries here are within her capacity, except for the two they can’t do any more for until they can get them to a hospital. He and Diane move through another hole, heading for the next group.
Several minutes later they have to enlarge another hole and move on. About fifteen minutes after leaving the first group they find two unconscious children. They treat them, and slowly move them back to the first group.