A Sense of Duty
by DrDizaster

1998


The ambulance screamed down the highway, cars pulling over to get out of our way. We had gotten the 911 call only a few minutes ago, and every second counts with a car crash. As we crested a small rise in the freeway, we could see... Oh God.

As close as I could tell, a car had swerved in front of a semi, causing the truck driver to slam on the brakes. One of the front tires had blown out, causing the semi to spin out, dragging its load with it. The trailer had rolled into the oncoming traffic, falling on a pickup truck. The front end was totaled, and the roof was dented in. As I ran towards the pickup, the smell of smoke entered my nose. I prayed that the pickup wasn't one of those old gas-powered ones, but as I got closer, I noted with dismay that I was wrong. Some people had already gathered around, trying to pull him out, but the door had been twisted to the point where it wouldn't open.

"Jim!" I called to my partner, "Did you bring the jaws of life?"

"Right here!" He said as he started to pry open the door. When he got it off, we dragged the driver onto the asphalt, away from the flames, and started to examine him.

"Dammit!" I yelled as I fished through my case. "His heart's not beating!" I started CPR, and told Jim to get the defibrillators out of the ambulance. As I pumped on his chest, I swear I saw my hands get bigger. I dismissed it as stress, and continued.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five... I pinched his nose, and blew a breath into his mouth. Even as I did, I saw his skin turn dark. I knew people turned blue when they had no air, but I had never seen it happen to this degree, or so quickly.

"Jim! Where're those defibrillators??" I almost snarled at him. I shook my head, and began pumping the man's chest again. I saw his chest heave, and I put an ear next to his mouth. I saw his chest moving, but there wasn't any air coming out of his mouth. I jumped back as I saw a horn shoot out of his face as it grew out ward. I'm going insane, I thought. But, nuts or not, I had to bring this man back. He's not gonna die, not on mywatch.

"Jim! Where the hell are those--" I gasped as I saw him, the defibrillators in his hands. Except for the fact that they weren't hands any more. They were talons. I snapped my head around, noticing all the other people having similar things happen. Shaking my head, I turned back to the driver, (who, by all outward appearances, was turning into a rhino) and started pumping his chest again. I felt my own face push out, but I ignored the discomfort. I blew a breath into his mouth, taking care to not cut him with my new fangs. Even as I pumped, I felt my ears shift to the top of my head, and I heard my shoes ripping as my feet outgrew them. Normally, I'd be running around screaming at this point, as some people were, but I couldn't. This man's life depended on it.

I put another breath in him, then pumped with renewed energy. I saw my paws push down on the man's huge chest, not even knowing if I was in the right spot anymore. Another breath.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five... Breathe.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five... Breathe.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five... Breathe.

I could have burst when the rhino gave a deep guttural cough. As he started to breathe on his own again, I sat back and looked at myself. I was apparently a feline of some sort, but I couldn't say which. Maybe a panther, or a cheetah...

I stood up and turned around, walking up to Jim. He sat on top of the defibrillator box, his feathered head in his taloned hands. His wings drooped, and his beak was pointed towards the ground. He didn't need to look up to see me, because my glare probably could have bored a hole through steel at that point.

"Dave, I... I'm sorry..." He said.

"You're sorry?!" I snapped back. "Jim, that man almost died out there because of you!" His head jerked up, and he returned my glare.

"What 'man'?" he said, gesturing towards him. "You just resuscitated a rhinoceros, for Godssakes! Look at Him! Look at me! Hell, look at you!"

"What's your name?" I asked him.

"Dave, you know my--"

"What's your name!" I yelled at him.

"Jim Edwards. But--"

"What do you do for a living?" He blinked twice.

"I'm EMT." (Emergency Medical Technician, for those of you who don't know.)

"Would you still be an EMT if you were black?"

"Well, yeah, but--"

"Asian?"

"Dammit, Dave, what's your point?!" He stood up to face me eye-to-eye.

"My point is," I said, jabbing a finger (er, whatever) into his chest, "is that you're a dedicated medical professional, so what the hell difference is a few feathers gonna make??" I loaded the defibrillators into the ambulance, and climbed into the driver's seat. I had to adjust the seat a little to fit my new feet on the pedals, but nothing major. As Jim got in the passenger side, I clicked on the radio and brought the piece up to my mouth.

"This is alpha 316 to dispatch, I'm expecting a busy day today. Who's next?"



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