I love my job.
I love helping people, bringing my boys so they can help. Yeah, I think of them as my boys.
I’ve been alive for over a year now, and it never fails to amaze me. Roy now only acts as though he drives me, and john navigates as always. Bless their hearts – they talk to me now as an equal.
I love my job. I love my life. But I’m lonely sometimes. I’m the only one of my kind, Even Big Red isn’t alive.
“Vi,” they tell me over and over, “We love you. We take care of you.”
And they do. Dwyer and Consuelas. Merrick and Thompson. They know I’m alive, but they treat me as a pet at best.
Only Johnny and Roy – and Vince -- treat me as equals. And I love them for it.
Late night calls upset me a little. Not as much as calls with children upset me, but still!
I turned myself on and opened the door as Johnny slid onto my seat. “Do you know where that is?” I asked softly through the radio.
“Yeah, that’s a bar.” He looked over at Roy. “You ready?”
“Move out, Vi,” Roy told me. I snapped on my lights and siren and took off.
As usual, we speculated on what we’d find. Big Red was behind us, so this must have been bad.
But when we pulled up, I was puzzled. “I don’t see a fire…”
“Me either,” Roy said. “I wonder what’s going on.”
They walked in and I felt the helplessness I always felt when they went into a situation. I waited and waited – and saw them come from the bar, shaking their heads.
I felt my pistons squeeze. “No….” I found myself whispering. “….please, no…”
Then I heard Johnny ask, “You got the RT forms?”
RT – Refused Treatment. Thank Heaven – I’d been wrong! Nobody’d died!”
Roy chuckled and moved toward me. “I’ll get ‘em.”
Johnny nodded, gave me one of those smiles, and waited for Roy.
It happened so fast – the car barreled around the corner too fast to stop, too fast to warn –
I will never forget the sickening sound it made when it hit Johnny. I will never forget the sight of his body flying into the air.
I will never forget the sight of the car tearing around the corner, not even slowing down.
And I will never forget the surge of power as I took off after it.
I tore after the car, lights and sirens blaring full-force, one thought in my mind.
My Johnny had been hurt! I was going to stop his assailant!
Over my radio, I could hear Captain Stanley frantically radio for an ambulance and the police. “Squad 51 is in pursuit of the car that hit him!”
Yes, Cap, and I’m going to catch him!
Finally, I heard the police cars. About time! Bozo heard them, too, apparently, because he accelerated!
“Fine,” I breathed. “If that’s how you want to play it…” I accelerated, too. In seconds, I’d overtaken Bozo. I went up on the curb for a few moments, accelerating all the way.
Then I jerked back into the road, directly in front of Bozo, and braced for impact.
Bozo whirled around and lightly grazed me, then started going the other way. Between me and the police cars, though – we got Bozo stopped.
Several officers surrounded the car and arrested the driver. Vince came over to me. His eyes widened when he realised I was alone. “…Vi?” he whispered.
“He hit Johnny,” I whispered back. “I-I couldn’t let him get away….”
“Shh, easy girl,” he soothed, rubbing my door. “You did good. Real good. Hold on, I think I can keep your cover from being blown.” He turned back toward the other cops and raised his voice.
“Bill? Fifty-one’s driver’s in shock! I’m gonna drive the Squad into Rampart General – pick me up there!”
“You got it, Vince!” Bill called back.
Vince opened my door and got in. “Let’s go, Vi,” he said gently.
“Thanks, Vince,” I sighed gratefully as I steered away from the scene – at an angle that, I hoped, would shield the fact Vince was alone in me and that he wasn’t driving.
There are times where I really, truly wish I were human. As a truck, I’m too big to fit through doorways and elevators. And, as such, I’m relegated to parking lots.
That night was more frustrating than any before. As I sat in the parking lot at Rampart, fighting mightily the urge to roll around and ‘pace’, I wished more than ever that I was anything but a truck.
I wanted to be in there, comforting Roy.
Suddenly my radio chirped on Channel Five. That made me stop – Channel Five? Nobody used Channel Five!
Curious now, I switched down to Channel Five and sent a tentative ‘go ahead’ electronic signal.
“Roy!” I gasped. “Wha—“
“I’ll leave this channel open so you can hear too. This way we won’t interfere with LA – and we’re stood down anyway…”
I felt myself tear up. “Thank you, Roy…” See why they were my boys? They cared so much….
Then I heard Brackett’s voice. “Roy?” And he went on to catalogue the damage the car had done.
When he was done, I couldn’t hold in the sigh of relief. It could have been so, so much worse!
It would take a lot of time, a lot of healing, and a lot of physical therapy – but Johnny would be back with us.
And that did it – my day was officially made!
He was going to be okay.
I wonder if my wheels touched the pavement all B and C shifts, I was so happy!
Johnny was going to be okay! He wouldn’t be at work for some time – but he would be as soon as he could be!
I quite forgot myself in the bay during C shift – my happiness overflowed into song! Merrick got royally chewed out for ‘turning the radio to a music station’.
Poor fellow. Didn’t say two words to me the rest of the shift!
I did wonder who Johnny’s replacement would be, however. And whether or not they would believe the truth about me.
I knew the answer to the second question would be a resounding ‘no’ when I saw who it was. I had heard Johnny and Roy speak of Craig Brice, and they’d shown me pictures of him.
Well, now I’d get the chance to work with him!
It was disconcerting to hear silence instead of a warm greeting and feel fingers roughly pull my bays open.
But then again, I reminded myself; Brice thought I was only a truck.
He pulled out the drug box and I watched him rearrange it piece by piece. Then, with a satisfied nod, he put it back and slammed my bay door.
Ouch! I didn’t think I liked him very much!
Then he fitted the key in my bay lock and turned it. He locked my bay?!
Oh, now – this meant war.
Brice gave a satisfied smile and turned way from me, starting to walk away.
He froze and turned back to me. It was all I could do to keep from howling with laughter at the dumbfounded expression on his face. Walking back to me, Brice tested my bay doors.
“Huh.” He frowned deeply, but just pulled out the keys and locked me again. “Must not have caught the first time.” He tested it again. Satisfied I was locked tight, he nodded and headed off again.
Brice froze again, turning back to me. “Oh, now, hold on a minute….” Once more, he tried my doors.
Once more, he found them unlocked.
“Okay, this is insane,” he growled, locking me once again. This time I waited until he had barely turned around.
Now he was scowling. I couldn’t suppress the giggle any longer, and he glared around him. “All right! This isn’t funny! Show yourself!”
Roy walked in at that moment with perfect timing. “Good morning, Brice.”
Brice sighed. “DeSoto. Not so far, it hasn’t been.”
“Someone is in here playing a prank! I locked the drug bay doors—“
“You did what?”
“—And it came right un-locked! And I heard a distinctly feminine giggle!”
“First of all, those bays stay un-locked! On a run, that could cost precious time!”
“But that voice—“
Roy smiled. “Oh, that’s just Vi.”
“Vi?” Brice blinked at him. “You know the person doing this?”
Roy nodded. “Vi is a very good friend of ours.”
Brice’s jaw all but dislocated, it had dropped so fast! “This…person…is –“
At that moment, the tones went off. Roy wrote down the information, and Brice got into my driver’s side. “I drive, you navigate,” he informed Roy. “Hand me the keys.”
“There are no keys. Scoot over.”
Brice blinked at him, but slid over. Roy got in, smiled at him, and said calmly, “Fifth and Rosemont, Vi.”
I turned on my lights and siren, and pulled out.
Brice screeched. “HOW--- HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS?!”
Roy’s hands weren’t on the wheel, or his eyes on the road. He was organizing the paperwork, calm as can be!
I couldn’t resist laughing at Brice’s reactions. The poor man was pale – gripping my seat and door so hard I was afraid he’d do himself some damage!
“Fifth and Rosemont, Roy,” I announced, making Brice yelp again.
“Thank you, Vi,” Roy said, putting the paperwork down.
“Oh, he rearranged the drug box,” I told Roy. “I don’t know how.”
Roy glared at Brice. “Let’s get this straight, because I am only going to say this once. You are not senior partner here. I am. No rearranging the drug box. No locking the bay doors.”
Brice was so stunned by me just being me that he nodded dumbly.
“Good. Let’s go,” Roy ordered, and they went.
I watched the ambulance pull away, and a visibly-shaken Brice walk toward me alone. He approached me as though I were going to reach out and bite him.
I waited till he was nestled carefully behind my wheel, then I said very softly, “Craig Brice?”
He jerked and yelped again! “I…y-you talk?”
“I talk. Where ware we going?”
“Very well. Buckle up.” He did as I asked, and I moved toward Rampart.
“How can you do this? Are you possessed?”
I laughed outright at that. “No, Craig. I am not possessed. I am alive. As alive as you are.”
“Brice. Last names are more effic—“
“Craig. Last names are stuffy. I am Vi, you are Craig. This discussion is over.”
“For now,” he conceded. “What – how – how can you be alive? You’re a truck! No offence –“
“None taken.” I told him, earning a very articulate “Oh,” from him. “Now, Craig, you prize discipline, yes?”
“Then don’t go against us. Roy is senior partner. Respect him as such.”
Craig was silent until we pulled into Rampart. I was hoping he was thinking about what we talked about.
“Uh-oh,” I whispered as I rolled up to see Roy standing there glowering at us. “He doesn’t look happy.”
“I wonder why?” Craig said softly.
Roy stormed over to me and knocked on my door with a knuckle. Uh-oh. Really ticked off. He only did that when he was afraid he’d hurt me jerking my door open. I opened my door and he growled at Craig, “Scoot. Over.”
Without a word, Craig slid to the passenger side. As Roy climbed in, I said, “Roy, I told him to. Wouldn’t do to see me driverless—“
“I know, Vi,” he cut me off. “It’s not you I’m mad at.” He shifted position as I closed my door. “Don’t go anywhere, Vi. I’ve still gotta get supplies and see Johnny.”
”Ooh? Will you--?”
“Yes, I’ll leave a channel open so you can visit, too.” He smiled a bit at my hornbeep of joy, then he glared at Craig. “Mic, Vi.”
I moved it to his waiting hand, earning a gasp from Craig. Roy keyed it. “LA, Squad 51. We are 10-8 for supplies at Rampart.”
“Fifty-one, 10-4,” came Sam’s cultured voice. I loved that man’s voice!
Roy let the mic go and I pulled it back secure. He then resumed glaring at Craig. “What you did back there was irresponsible, uncalled for, and detrimental!”
ARGH! Obviously something had happened on the run! I wished again I could somehow detach from this metal shell and go with them! I felt so limited sometimes….
Craig glared back at him, despite the paleness he seemed to permanently be sporting since he’d found out what I am. “I was factually correct. I don’t believe in lying to the patients!”
“You don’t lie to patients! But you also don’t tell them they’re in the middle of a heart attack! That man went downhill fast after that!”
I gasped, “He didn’t!”
“He did,” Roy growled. “And Brackett is livid with him. Brice, telling a scared patient what they have is bound to scare them more! False or not, sometimes the hope we give them is all they have to hold on to! You denied that man that, and he is in a coma now! Brackett thinks he’s that way now because you took his hope away!”
“Craig,” I snarled at him. “How could you?”
Craig didn’t seem to know what to say. His mouth was working, but nothing was coming out.
Roy pointed at him, his hand trembling with anger. His voice was clipped, tightly controlled. “I am going back in there. I am going to get the supplies and have a quick visit with Johnny.”
Craig nodded. “I can get the supplies for—“
“No.” Roy’s voice was a low growl. “I have had bad partners before, Brice, but you take the proverbial cake!” He ticked things off on his fingers. “You rearranged the drug box. You locked the bay doors. You have bullied a patient into a coma, and you’ve tried to bully me. You are going to stay here till I get back, then we are going to go talk to Cap.”
He got out, and leaned back in through my window. “It boils down to this, Craig. I can’t trust you. Vi, I’ll leave a channel open.” And he was gone.
I was aware of Craig leaning his head against my windowframe. The silence was so awkward. I didn’t quite know what to say.
Then Craig made an odd sound. “Craig?” I asked, alarmed.
He made it again, softer this time. Wetness splashed onto my seat. “….oh, Craig….”
Craig Brice was softly crying.
I didn’t know how to handle this. I’d never seen a man cry before – let alone one reputed to be emotionless. “Craig….”
“He’s right,” Craig sniffled. “He’s absolutely right!” He lifted the hem of his uniform shirt and used it as a makeshift handkerchief. “I-I can’t be trusted! No-nobody wants to work with me … and-and you know what the worst part is?”
“No,” I said softly. “No, I don’t.”
He leaned forward and put his arms on my dashboard, putting his forehead on them. “I brought this entirely on myself.”
What could I say to that? He was absolutely right. I let him lean on me for awhile, choosing my words carefully. “It won’t be easy… and it won’t happen over night… but you can change and rebuild his trust.”
“I can’t change, Squa—uh—what is your name again?”
I chuckled. “Vi. V-I.”
His head snapped up. “V-I? 5-1?”
“That’s right – Vi.”
He slowly smiled. “I can remember that now. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome. Now – back to the matter at hand. Why do you say you can’t change?”
“Why are you so sure I can?” he shot back.
“Well….” I said slowly. “I realise I’ve not been alive very long… but I’ve seen enough to know that if people really want to change, they can change.”
Craig looked toward my radio. As Roy had done, and as Johnny often did, he seemed to have zeroed in on my radio to focus on as humans looked at each others’ eyes or mouths. “Vi… I am not like other people. I am very set in my ways and I can’t seem to stop myself.”
I thought some more, then I asked softly, “Would you be willing to have someone help you?”
“Do you have someone in mind?”
“I might – I’ll have to think on it awhile longer.”
He nodded, visibly thinking about it.
“In the meanwhile, try to be more flexible.” He frowned and opened his mouth and I finished. “I’ll help as much as I can.”
His eyes widened. “You… you will?”
“Yes, I will.” Roy walked out of Rampart then. “Roy’s coming. You feel up to facing him?”
“No…. not really.” He sighed. “But I have to.”
“Yes. You have to.”
Craig sighed and I watched him brace himself for another verbal attack. Fortunately, it never came. Roy called us available and said gently, “Get us home, Vi.” He leaned back and closed his eyes as I pulled out of Rampart.
The ride back to the station was strained – silent.
The rest of that shift was – mercifully – quiet. I used the radio hooked to Roy’s belt to alert him I wanted to talk to him privately. He came over and rubbed my door. “Vi, what is it?”
“I need to talk to you – about Craig.”
He snorted. “What about him?”
“Can you tell me the name of a good counselor?”
That took him by surprise. “A counselor? Why, is he in legal trouble?”
I chuckled. “No, no – not that kind of counselor – a talking kind. One that will help talk him through what he has to do.”
“That’s for him to decide. But I have to tell you, I’m disappointed in you.”
Roy’s head snapped up. “In…in me?”
I sighed. “Roy, Craig isn’t the easiest person to be around. Even for himself. I know you are hurting and angry – I am, too.”
Roy let out a sigh and rested his forehead on my doorframe. “And I took it out on him.”
“You said nothing he didn’t need to hear – but the way--“
“Say no more, Vi. I know what I have to do.”
“Good. Then there’s only one thing I ask.”
“Do it in here? So I can support you both?”
He chuckled. “Vi, if you were human, I’d hug you!”
“You still can!” I lowered my window. With another chuckle, Roy leaned in and wrapped his arms around my steering wheel.
Then he went to find Craig. I waited in silence, feeling more at peace than I had since seeing Johnny hit by the car. An apology would be coming. Roy and I would help Craig become less stuffy.
One impossible thing after another, it seemed. A perfect template for my life since I became alive.
One impossible thing after another.
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