Saturday, 10 September 2011

Episode 82

Harold dropped the twenty feet or so into the culvert, landing lightly. He trotted over to the crashed truck. Some kind of liquid was leaking from somewhere and spreading in a dark pool around it. Harold hoped it wasn’t fuel or anything else flammable: he’d seen lots of movies and TV programmes since coming to earth and vehicles inevitably seemed to go ka-boom shortly after crashing. If motor vehicles were so dangerous, why on earth did humans routinely trust their lives to them? Harold wasn’t afraid for himself; his clothes would be ruined, of course, if the truck blew up, but he would be basically unharmed – if a little weak and in need of pizza. The humans inside would not fare so well, however, so chop-chop, old bean, he told himself in his best mental imitation of Teatime.

The truck’s rear end was closest to him and one of the doors, having burst open in the crash, was lying invitingly open on the ground, providing a handy means for Harold to scramble in.

The inside of the truck was a shambles. There had clearly been a lot of complicated and delicate equipment in here, but most of it had been torn from its mountings in the crash and was smashed and scattered all over the place. Bits of broken glass glittered everywhere. Thankfully, there was no electrical sparking – indeed, all was eerily quiet. Harold’s night vision, demonically good as it was, soon allowed him to spot the rear compartment’s lone occupant.

The man was unconscious with a sizeable gash on his forehead which was bleeding freely. He was lying sprawled on top of a small heap of busted up equipment. Further examination, however, was hampered by two large silvery equipment cases which had tumbled onto the man’s body and legs. Harold grabbed the handle of the nearest one and unceremoniously slung it out through the door-hole, where it landed with a clatter on the concrete beyond. The second one followed suit shortly after.

Harold crouched next to the man. He was quite young by the looks of it, which was good as it meant that he would be strong and healthy. Humans’ bodies were so terrifically delicate, though. One wrong move from Harold and a bad situation might become much, much worse. Harold had seen fly-on-the-wall documentaries about hospital ERs and knew that broken necks and spines were bad news. If he moved the man… He wracked his brains for a moment, wrestling with the beginnings of an idea, then shrugged to himself: it was worth a try, surely?

He tentatively reached out his hand and, using the same facility that had allowed him to sense the locks on the various doors he had opened, he tried to ‘see’ if anything was broken in the man’s body. The rush of sensation he received in return was very odd indeed: humans, it transpired, were basically a big bag of warm squishy with a bony frame. Fortunately, the man seemed to be undamaged apart from the knock on the head he’d received.

Harold carefully manoeuvred the limp and distinctly uncooperative form out through the door hole and dragged it far enough away (he hoped) from any potential ka-boom. Not knowing anything about recovery positions or anything much else of First Aid (the Basement did not have this subject on its curriculum for some reason), he made the fellow as comfortable as he could, then headed back to the van.

As he trotted past them on his way to the front of the truck, Harold glanced at the two bulky cases he had ejected so carelessly. They bore the Rainbow Industries logo as well as some other black stencilled lettering: RI-180-A Smart Camouflage (Medium). Harold felt a stab of excitement: if those cases contained what he thought they did, then getting Prada back might be a tad easier.

There was no time for that now, however.

Harold scrambled up onto the passenger side of the vehicle, which was now effectively its roof, and made his way over to the driver’s compartment. Through the broken passenger side window, Harold could see that both airbags had gone off and then deflated, leaving their fabric draped in pale folds eerily reminiscent of a shroud, over the occupants, neither of whom was moving.

Harold stood up and tried to tug the passenger door open, but it was badly buckled and refused to budge. Favouring the universe with a gimme-a-break-already sigh, Harold crouched down again and used his abilities, just as he had done on Mr Peck’s cable-tie handcuffs, teasing the molecules of the twisted metal apart bit by bit, so as to avoid sparks and subsequent unwelcome ka-booms.

The door now open, Harold reached in and gently lifted the air-bag material out of the way, the better to see the two men. A hand-scan (as he suddenly decided to called it) revealed that the passenger had a broken arm and a couple of cracked ribs, as well as a large egg of a bump on the side of his head – no doubt the cause of his unconsciousness. He tried to reach down to the driver to check on him, but the bulk of the passenger’s body prevented it.

The passenger himself was probably not in too great a danger from his injuries, Harold thought (so, you’re a Doctor all of a sudden, taunted his own inner voice), but clearly the man would benefit by not being in the truck any longer than was necessary.

But how to get him out safely?

The truck’s front windshield was a spider web of cracks, but was, miraculously, still more or less in one piece. If Harold could just remove it, there would be a nice big aperture through which rescue could be effected. He was just starting to congratulate himself on his own inventiveness when the sound of a passing siren drifted down from the highway above.

He smacked himself in the forehead with the heel of his hand. You idiot! he told himself, you should have rung for an ambulance before getting stuck in!

He reached for his phone, but, as his fingers curled around its cool smooth plastic, he suddenly remembered all those NO MOBILE PHONE signs displayed so prominently in filling stations. Mouthing a silent phew at his lucky escape, he jumped down to the ground.

Once he got to work on it, the windscreen all but fell out of its own accord and, with the large gap it left, Harold was now able to check on the truck’s driver at last.

The driver’s corner of the truck had borne the full brunt of the vehicle’s high speed impact with the unyielding concrete of the culvert’s wall. There was nothing anyone could do for the driver now.

Shaking his head, Harold carefully eased the passenger out of the truck and dragged him as gently as he could over to where he had left the other man, laying him down beside his comrade. He then dialled 911 and gave brief details of the men’s injuries and the location.

That done, he suddenly felt quite drained. All the tearing about at high speed, followed by all the scanning and cutting of metal and glass had apparently taken its toll. What he wouldn’t give for some pizza right now! No rest for the wicked, though, he told himself.

Slinging the straps of the two cases over his shoulders, Harold started walking along the culvert and away from the crash site – it wouldn’t do to be around when the medics (and Police, probably) showed up. Now, there had to be a service ladder or something around here somewhere.

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