Disclaimer: Uber Star Trek Voyager, JAG and X-files. No infringement intended since this is an original story. Among other things it is about same gender love between consenting adult women and if that is illegal where you are or offensive to you in any way - please hit your back button! 
Rating: Chapters vary between G - NC-17
Revised May 2, 2001

Can't believe how much fun we had with this chapter, Pol. There would be no part 11 without my beta reader!

Back to "Finding Shelter From The Storm" - part 10


Finding Shelter From The Storm

GB

Part 11

 

Sirens screamed as rescue, fire and police vehicles raced towards the scene.

The chief riding in the first fire truck held a grim expression on his face as he strapped on his helmet. This sounded like it was going to be a bad one.

*****

The agents, called in as back up by Valerie Jones, pulled up to the old abandoned cotton mill. They had just stopped their cars when a sudden rumble grew into a thundering explosion.

The midsection of the old roof fell in before their eyes.

There was an enormous cloud of dust and then a second roar of thunder as parts of the wall towards the parking lot collapsed, falling into large pieces.

Clyde Ross, the driver of the first car on the scene, grabbed his cell phone and contacted the Emergency Operations Center at the Bureau. Rapidly above the noise and the chaos, he gave a situation report and requested immediate assistance that included backup, fire fighters, paramedics, search and rescue and ordnance experts.

He had no idea if there were additional explosives on the scene but it couldn't take the chance.

His partner, Jeff Connor, a man in his early thirties climbed out of the car. He now stared at the building, not quite believing his eyes.

"Ross," he yelled, "are you sure Jones is in there?" he asked.

"Yes, she was very specific," Ross answered, hanging up the phone. "Let's circle the building and see if we can be useful before the fire department gets here."

Being the senior officer on the scene he assumed command and began issuing out orders to secure the scene.

Ross sent two teams to circle the building as he and his partner moved towards the collapsed structure together with two other agents.

The dust and black smoke was still thick in the air but the rain was washing it away quickly.

There were no sign of life as the men approached the destroyed building. The silence was ominous.

Ross unsnapped the small strap on his holster but left the gun tucked away. Earlier that day he had received a call from Jones and listened with increasing dismay as his boss revealed her suspicions. His respect and admiration for Jones made him realise that she meant every word no matter how unbelievable it sounded. Now, with the thought of his boss buried beneath tons of rubble he began to seethe inside.

Cautiously, Ross and Connor reached the collapsed structure. Coughing against the dust and smoke they tried to look inside. They couldn't see anything beyond the piles of debris there was too much destruction in front of them. Connor leaned in over a large piece of concrete rebar, trying to get a better view.

"Watch it!" Ross exclaimed. "This entire structure is unstable. The rest of it could collapse at anytime. We have no idea if anyone in there is still alive and I don't want to put anymore lives at stake."

He tugged at his partner, aware of the younger man's impulsive nature.

Connor complied and took a step back.

They circled the building and found the door with the broken padlock.

"Someone entered here," Connor stated.

Ross nodded and tugged at the door. It wouldn't budge.

He looked up and then frowned.

"This entire wall has shifted and is weighing heavily on the door frame," he said. "There is no way we can get this open."

They walked around the building, trying several doors and windows with the same discouraging result. They broke some of the windows, but all they could see was rubble, dust, and in some parts of the building dark smoke.

It wasn't safe to go in unprotected. They had to wait for backup.

They returned to the parking lot.

The remaining teams had surrounded the building and secured the perimeter. None of them had found any evidence of life.

Sirens were approaching. Within minutes several fire engines pulled into the parking lot. As the firemen jumped off the engines and began to assess the situation Ross ran towards them.

"Who's your chief`?" he asked the man closest to him.

"Dan O'Brien, over there," the fireman pointed out.

O'Brien was a large bear of a man in his fifties.

Connor approached him and flashed his badge.

"We might have at least five or six people trapped in there, maybe more" Connor explained. "My senior officer and possibly two other agents. There may be civilians present. I don't know how many."

The chief rubbed his neck and began to walk towards the building.

"Any clue what caused this mess?"

"We're not sure. We arrived just as the roof fell in. We got called in as back up by Valerie Jones, my senior officer."

"And she is one of the people trapped in there?" O'Brien asked.

Ross nodded grimly.

"Yes, we think so."

O'Brien regarded the building and then he began issuing orders.

Soon the firemen were busy trying to clear an opening in order to reach potential victims.

Watching them with trepidation, Ross and Connor wondered how on earth anybody could have survived in there.

It seemed impossible.

*****

Her head was hurting, worse than before.

She had been standing next to the wall when the roof caved in. A pillar hitting her in the chest knocked her over and rendered her unconscious for the second time in less than an hour.

Dawn coughed and tried to move.

Her legs were trapped.

She tried to see what was holding her down but between the darkness and the thick dust.

She couldn't.

She wanted to call out for Joan.

The last time she had seen her partner the brunette had been trying to talk Sunny into leaving the ledge. Her chest clenched in fear.

The doctor moved her arms carefully, trying to assess her injuries. Her right arm seemed okay but she suspected that she had broken or severely sprained her left wrist. Trying to free her legs, she stifled a moan as a sharp edge of something dug into the skin of her right leg, ripping the fabric of her slacks.

There were no sounds for a short period of time but then she heard voices in the distance. She hoped it was the back up Jones had called in.

Dawn desperately wanted to call out but she had no idea who had survived the explosion. She knew Monroe and his men might still be alive and armed. She feared what would happen if they managed to get to her first.

Images of Joan forced their way into her mind. She fought for control trying not to let her greatest fear consume her. Her partner had to be all right. She just had to.

Clenching her teeth at the pain she made a new attempt to free herself from what ever was digging into her leg. Feeling it tear her slacks and cut into her skin, she moaned quietly. Blood trickled down her leg drenching the shredded fabric.

Carefully she moved, relieved to find that she was able to shift a little. Trying once again she managed to free her leg from the debris. Bracing herself on her uninjured arm she slid her body away from the heavy object that had trapped her.

She was still confined to a small crawl space. Rain was pouring in. She was drenched. The combination of shock, cold and fear was beginning to take a terrible toll as she shivered uncontrollably. Reaching out blindly, she suddenly felt human skin against hers.

She gasped!

A slender hand, still clutching a gun, was right in front of her.

Jones.

"Ma'am?" Dawn hissed as she cautiously removed the gun from the motionless hand. "Are you all right? Valerie?"

Inching her way closer to Jones, pain shot through her as she leaned on her injured arm.

Closing the distance between them, she felt for a pulse on the seemingly fragile wrist. She had to wait a while before her own heartbeat to slow down before she could detect a rapid and slightly thready pulse in her former boss.

Sobbing in relief she rubbed the clammy skin.

"Valerie, talk to me," she said a little louder, throwing caution to the wind.

They were stuck in here. The risk of going into hypothermia was imminent. She had no idea what internal injuries Jones had sustained.

There were no sign of the older woman regaining consciousness and Dawn kept rubbing what she could reach of Jones' hand and arm.

She could hear more voices now.

Painfully she tried to raise her head to find out where they were coming from. Occasionally she saw flashes of light and realised that they must be headlights or large searchlights no doubt put up by the rescue workers outside.

Help had arrived. Tears of relief burned behind her eyelids and she fought them back. There might be a true reason for tears later on.

Groaning out loud, not really caring who heard her or if they were armed or not, she pressed her aching arm to the ground and crawled forward.

Feeling along Jones' arm she reached the woman's head. Jones was facing her. Dawn felt around her mouth and nose, determining that her airways were clear. Leaning down she put her mouth next to the older woman's ear.

"Valerie," she said. "Can you hear me? Answer me if you can. Squeeze my hand."

She put her unharmed hand in Jones' and waited. She tried over and over to make her respond.

"Oh, Farlow," she whispered to herself, "what did you do? How on earth did you do this?"

She realised that Farlow had had no way of knowing that Sunny or the agents were in the building. The scientist had decided to blow the whistle on Monroe and had sacrificed herself in the process.

Turning her head she tried to see the ledge in the darkness.

With the bright searchlights ablaze she could see up through the debris. Gasping she realised that that part of the roof was gone too and so was the ledge. The place where Sunny and Joan had been standing was now hanging from the wall behind her, dangling from the ropes.

All she could do was pray that the women had managed to reach the stairs.

A sudden movement under her fingers made her jump.

"Ma'am?" she whispered and squeezed the now trembling hand.

She was relieved to feel the tremors working their way through the hand and arm of Valerie Jones. If she was trembling it meant she was cold and that in turn meant that she might be regaining consciousness.

"Morrison?" she heard the other woman whisper huskily.

"Yes, I'm here," Dawn replied. "Don't move, you are lying beneath a lot of debris. We can't risk it injuring you further."

"I get it. Are you injured?" Jones asked a bit out of breath but with an increasingly stronger voice.

"Only my left wrist and a gash in my right leg, nothing serious. What about yourself, ma'am?"

Jones inhaled deeply and let her breath out in a sigh that could only be described as exasperated

"Oh, my head hurts like hell," she muttered. "Damn Farlow, she had to do it, didn't she?"

Dawn closed her eyes. She fought the tears that threatened to flood her cheeks. The doctor was full of fear of what might have happened to Joan.

"Yes," she answered, forcing her voice to be steady and clear despite the fact that her teeth had begun to clutter. "She sacrificed herself to end this, just like we feared."

"She might have taken out Monroe and his goons, but she didn't realise that she might have destroyed that young girl in the process," Jones said solemnly.

Nauseated by the older woman's realistic assumption, Dawn swallowed hard and bit her lower lip.

"She had no way of knowing that we were here," she said quietly.

Jones turned her head towards her subordinate, making a face as the movement obviously caused her pain.

"Oh, Dawn," she said in a much softer voice, "I'm such a careless bitch. The way you feel about Tremayne Let's hope that she and Sunny made to the stairs."

She glanced at the collapsed ledge.

"She has to be all right," Dawn heard herself whisper. "She she and I we just "

A single hot tear ran down her cold cheek and she furiously turned her head and wiped it away on her shoulder.

"You just found each other," Jones stated quietly.

"Yes."

"Then have faith. If they made it to the stairs they were protected by more walls than we were and we're alive aren't we?"

Dawn nodded, appreciating the fact that the other woman was trying to encourage her. She had not seen this side of Jones before but knew that there were many facets to her other than just being the company bitch, much like herself.

Dawn smirked. She hadn't realised that she and her former boss were so much alike. Perhaps Jones had had a stronger impact on her after all.

Suddenly the lights were much brighter than before.

Dawn shielded her eyes with her injured hand and squinted.

Through the debris she could hear the rescue workers as they began to dig their way towards their position.

"Over here!" she shouted and she tried to push some of the debris above them to the side, disregarding the stabbing pain in her arm. "Agents Morrison and Jones of the Bureau! We're over here!"

A flashlight swept over the two women as rescue workers located them.

"We've got you. Hang on," one of the rescue workers said as they started to slowly dig the two women out.

Carefully they began to lift the wreckage from the roof. Jackhammers began to break the larger pieces of debris into manageable pieces. A hand reached down to grasp Dawn's and offer comfort.

"We have two women over here," the man yelled over his shoulder "They're alive!" Giving Dawn's hand a reassuring squeeze he asked, "How's it going? Are you hurt?"

Dawn gave a brief run down on both Jones' and her own injuries. Tears of relief began to well in her eyes.

"Well have you out of there in no time."

"We found victims over here," another voice yelled out over the sounds of heavy machinery, jackhammers and blowtorches as rescue workers continued their efforts. "Both of them are seriously injured and we have one more over here who's dead."

Dawn felt her mouth go dry. Tipping her head back she shut her eyes around her tears.

"No," she moaned. "Oh, god, no no ..."

*****

Ross watched the stretcher being carefully lifted across the rubble at the large gap in the wall to the old mill.

Tousled damp hair and torn clothes was his first impression of the woman who was being rushed to the paramedics that waited to treat her.

He hurried over to join them.

"Morrison," he said, not entirely surprised to see his colleague but concerned about her condition.

Dawn looked up at him, frowning before recognising him.

"Ross," she greeted him huskily, shivering in the blanket the firemen had wrapped her up in. "Are they getting Jones out?"

Ross glanced over his shoulder. There were several teams of firemen and search and rescue workers inside the building but he couldn't see if they were close to carrying out his commanding officer yet.

"I'm sure they will bring her out any minute," he said, trying

to reassure the woman on the stretcher. "Is she all right?"

"She suffered a head trauma and she could have internal injuries, I don't know, but she was talking to me before they got me out," Dawn explained, trying to sit up. Rubbing her right temple she made a face and paled.

"Hey, easy," Ross said as the doctor looked like she was going to be sick. "You don't look too good, Morrison."

The rescue workers lowered the stretcher on a set of litter stand that had been set up in a makeshift aid station. A doctor and a paramedic moved Ross aside as they began to work on Morrison.

"You're going to have to leave," stated the doctor.

"No!" responded Dawn as she grabbed Ross with her good arm.

"Take it easy. Just keep still, you can brief me from here.

Okay? Just let these folks work on you and you can tell me what went down. All right?"

Dawn nodded and rested on the stretcher.

The doctor and Ross exchanged nods as the he and the paramedic began working on Dawn.

"Tell me what happened in there?" Ross asked.

"Grace Farlow detonated an explosive by remote control," Dawn said. "Naturally she wasn't aware of our presence or she surely wouldn't have triggered it."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Because the person she loves the most is in there."

Ross regarded Dawn curiously.

"And who would that be?" he asked.

"Her name is Sunshine Stewart," the Dawn explained. "She and Farlow are close."

Ross realised that there were more to that statement than the obvious but let it pass.

"Where's your partner?"

Dawn paled again and pressed her lips together.

"Joan was with Sunny up on a ledge just prior to the explosion. I hope they made it to the stairs or " Her voice betrayed her and she closed her eyes briefly.

"I'll check with the fire chief and see if he knows how many

victims they've discovered."

"In addition to the ones you know about there were five others, Monroe and his four goons," Dawn stated firmly. "Oh, and one huge dog, Hubert."

Ross eyebrows almost left his forehead.

"A dog?"

"Sunny's dog."

The agent nodded and then walked towards the fire chief.

O'Brien began to walk towards him.

"What's the situation?" Ross asked shortly.

"Two women were found alive and conscious. You talked to one of them and they are moving the other one as we speak. We found two men with serious injuries. We need to stabilise them both before we try to extract them. There are large pieces of debris around that has to be removed before we can do anything else. We have two fatalities, both of them men. It's not a pretty sight in there."

Ross made a face and rubbed his neck.

He briefed the chief about how many people they knew had been in the old mill at the time of the explosion.

O'Brien nodded grimly and then rolled his eyes.

"The vultures are gathering," he said, motioning with his head to something behind Ross.

Looking over his shoulder the agent groaned.

Media had arrived. Several vans from different networks as well as two helicopters were covering the site. He knew it was being fed live over CNN and to other networks as well. It was the old adage, "if it bleeds, it leads".

The local police had cordoned off the area preventing the cameras from getting too close to the crime scene. He realised that he was the one who was going to have to talk to them soon. That was normally Valerie Jones' job. This was turning more and more into a nightmare every minute. He hated dealing with the media

He spotted more firemen emerging from the building, carrying another stretcher. The tall woman looked very vulnerable as she lay there, soaked by the rain and covered with dust.

The firemen rushed her to the paramedics, putting her stretcher down next to Morrison's.

Ross started running through the rain. He had grabbed a raincoat from his trunk earlier, one that stated that he was with the Bureau and although it kept him fairly dry, it wasn't warm.

He reached his commanding officer in time to hear her demand that they let her sit up and return back to work. Grinning inwardly of relief that his boss seemed her old, pushy self, he stood beside the stretcher.

"Ma'am?" he said, carefully choosing his words. "Are you all right? Why don't you let these guys do their job and check you over before you take over again?"

Valerie Jones turned to him and frowned.

"Ross," she said testily, "it's about time you got here. What have you done so far?"

Ross sighed but knew it was pointless to argue.

"We have agents securing the scene. Local police have cordon off the surrounding area. The fire department was able to suppress the fire rather quickly. The building is structurally a mess. Search and rescue teams are trying to locate all of the missing and some of our agents are assisting them. Morrison was able to give me a head count. So far you two are the only ones they've recovered."

"Good. Good. I don't give a damn what happens to Monroe and his gang but we have to get Tremayne and Stewart out. Make sure you find them."

"And Farlow?"

Jones made a face.

"She is in there but I doubt she made it. Find her body, we need to be sure." She coughed and quickly put a hand over her left side. "Damn, I must have broken a rib or something. I'll let them check me over, since you insist," she muttered.

Ross saw the paramedics and the doctor exchange a knowing look. The fact that Jones let them examine her thoroughly without any more objections indicated that her injuries were more extensive than she would let on.

Ross returned to the site. The Police had set up a perimeter. Flashing his badge they let him pass through as he made his way back to the hole in the wall.

The firemen had cleared most of it but he knew better than to try and enter. The professionals were at work inside and they didn't need another person in there to worry about. The whole building was unstable. It would take much to cause the entire structure, at least what was left of the roof, to collapse.

"Make you wonder how anybody could have survived at all, doesn't it?" said a low voice just next to him.

Ross turned his head and watched Dawn Morrison standing there, wrapped in a blanket. She was pale and her hair was mess, still there was a fire in her eyes when she regarded him seriously.

"Yes," he agreed, "but since you and Jones made it, the chances are good that Tremayne and Miss Steward did too. Don't give up hope, Morrison."

"I'm not. I have to believe that they're all right. I have to." She mumbled the last words almost inaudibly, wrapping the blanket closer around her. The rain was quickly soaking it.

 

Ross tried to lead her away but she stubbornly remained at the opening, her eyes never leaving the darting lights inside.

"You need to lie down. Why haven't they evacuated you?" he tried but was only met with a disdainful look.

"I'm not going anywhere. I can't. I have to I must make sure she's okay," the doctor mumbled and shrugged the blanket off her shoulder, letting it fall to the ground. Before he understood her intentions she climbed over some large pieces of brick and mortar, trying to enter the old mill again.

"Morrison, what the hell do you think you're doing? You can't go inside, it isn't safe," Ross exclaimed and tried to pull her back.

"Damn it, Morrison, get back here,"

The younger woman didn't even look back. She reached out her uninjured hand and steadied herself against the broken wall. With uncertain steps she climbed inside.

Ross climbed in behind his colleague.

"Dawn," he said, not bothering with being polite, "you're injured and it isn't safe. Let them do their job in here. They can't do that if they have to chase you around to get you out of the way. Come here now."

He pulled at her and was shocked when the petite woman pivoted and glared at him.

"Keep your hands off me," she hissed vehemently. "I have to find her! You don't understand she she "

He didn't understand.

Ross could see that there was something else going on besides an agents normal concern for a missing partner and he couldn't even guess half of it. Still, he couldn't let her go inside.

Determinedly he pulled her back against him despite her cry of outrage.

"No! Let me go, I have to you must let me go in there. Joan Joanie "

He lifted her up in his arms and walked back out, hoping that he wouldn't fall.

"None of that," he said seriously. "We don't need any more injured agents, is that understood?"

Ross and Morrison shared the same rank at the Bureau but he wanted to make sure she understood that there was no way he would allow her to go back inside.

The woman struggled against him, her eyes narrow and pale blue in the sharp light from the searchlights. Jerking shakily she tried to break free but in her weakened state it wasn't hard for him to carry her back to the aid station.

Jones had watched as the entire scene had unfolded.

Forcing herself to sit up she pushed the paramedic aside as she slowly stood up and made her way to Ross and Morrison.

Ross slowly lowered Morrison on to the stretcher. Jones reached out and firmly held her as the paramedics wrapped her in blankets. Someone had appeared with some hot beverages and Jones forced a cup into Morrison's hands as she continued to shiver.

"Morrison," she said, "I know you're worried but you need to get a grip here. You need to focus. You're not helping Tremayne by acting foolishly."

Dawn regarded Jones with unseeing eyes, clutching at the blankets around her, ignoring the cup in her hand.

"I need to do something," she whispered feverishly. "I can't just do nothing!"

"Look at me," Jones commanded. "If you can't obey orders then you'll have to leave."

"No!" Dawn focussed on Jones.

Jones reached out and held her cheek as she held her gaze.

"Then drink this before you get hypothermia and help me brief Ross," the older woman said. "We need to be prepared in case they find Monroe or any of his men alive in there."

Dawn took a deep breath; tears had begun streaming down her face. Slowly she nodded and tried to drink the hot beverage as she tried to bring her fears under control.

Jones watched as Morrison struggled. She should be in a hospital, hell they both should, but no one was going to remove either one of them from the scene until they knew the fate of the other women. Jones nodded for Morrison to move over as she sat down next to her with a groan.

"At least two men have made it so far," Ross added.

"Are they identified?" Jones asked sharply.

"No, not as of yet. The conditions are not easy to work under in there," Ross said, watching Morrison flinch. "They are about to bring out the first man now. They found another one that apparently was killed instantly."

He turned around to check on the progress in the building.

Four rescue workers appeared carrying a stretcher.

Two paramedics were walking close to the stretcher carrying the bags with IV fluids.

As the stretcher was carried into the aid station, the agents could see the face of the casualty.

"You bastard!" Dawn yelled. "This is all your fault, you damn bastard "

Both Jones and Ross held on to her.

All Dawn wanted to do was pound her fists into the bloody mess that was Monroe. She began to sob.

"It's okay. It's okay. He can't hurt anyone right now."

Jones' calm, cool voice reached through to her

To Ross' amazement his commanding officer reached out and embraced Morrison who had finally broken down completely.

"It's his fault," Morrison mumbled, her breath raspy.

"He's to blame for this situation, yes," Jones agreed. "He will be held accountable."

"If Joan if she's" Dawn sobbed into Jones shoulder.

"Stop it. We don't know anything about Sunny's and hers condition yet. Nor have we any news of Farlow. Don't torture yourself. There is still hope."

"Why haven't they found them yet?

Morrison's voice was a low whimper that reminded Ross of a wounded animal.

"They were at the furthest end of the building," Jones said. "That makes them harder to reach but it also means that they were furthest from the cave in."

The younger woman slowly looked up, her face streaked with dust and tears.

"Don't you see? There have been no signs of life. Nothing."

Jones met Morrison's eyes without hesitation.

"I know."

Then her eyes focused on something behind the other two.

"I think things just looked up," Jones said, a smile forming on her lips.

Ross turned his head and stared.

The largest dog he had ever seen emerged from the hole in the wall.

Dawn Morrison turned her head; stumbling she pushed herself from the litter and threw herself on her knees next to the enormous animal.

"Hubert!"

*****

Valerie Jones gazed down at the agent embracing the tousled dog.

She had forgotten about Sunny's protector and friend.

"He looks unharmed," she stated and walked closer.

Her back ached. She was cold, furious and trembling in her torn, wet clothes. Strangely enough the sight of the dog had lifted her spirit to some degree.

Dawn raised her head.

Jones didn't like the calculating glimpse she caught before the doctor masked her feelings.

"He has a small cut on his left hind leg," she whispered, "He should be fine."

"Is he safe?" Ross asked. "He looks dangerous."

"He's saved our lives more than once," Dawn hissed and pulled Hubert closer. The dog regarded the tall man with some disdain.

"I need to go and address media," Ross sighed. "Unless you "

Jones dismissed him with a flick of her wrist.

"No. You handle them. I won't go on national TV looking like this. I have to get a hold of a cell phone and make some calls."

She looked encouragingly at Ross who handed over his cell phone to his boss.

"Thank you," she said amicably.

Already dialling she went over in her head what she needed done at the office. They would have to start building an airtight case against Monroe in order to protect Farlow if she was alive in there. There was also Farlow's research to consider, not so small a matter.

Reaching her assistant, she rattled orders and instructions, undoubtedly causing the young woman to wonder what was going on. She didn't want to disclose too much information at this point but she still had to get the ball rolling.

"Find Andersen, Parker and that new guy, Fuller and send them over here. I also want a guard posted at Monroe's bed once arrives at the hospital. They're bringing him in as we speak and from what I saw, he's in pretty bad shape and so is one of his goons. Assign somebody to guard him as well. No, I don't know his name."

After tying up some loose ends and promising to get checked out at the hospital as soon as possible, she turned to Dawn Morrison, only to find both her and Hubert gone.

*****

Dawn moved carefully through the rubble.

Her left wrist was severely swollen, the pain at times excruciating. She tried to keep it close to her body to not hit it against anything. Her right hand was on Hubert's collar. The dog was walking slowly, as if waiting for her to catch up to him.

Dawn was concerned about his paws, realising that there were bound to be lots of sharp objects on the floor of the old mill. Still, if there was half a chance that the dog could find the two missing women, she had to let him try.

"Go find Sunny," she told him again, keeping her voice low so not attract attention. She was fully aware that if she were discovered she would be removed from the site immediately.

The destroyed machine hall was lit up fairly well by all the searchlights but still there were enough shadows making it hard to see where you were going.

Dawn tripped over some fallen down wires and barely managed to regain her balance. Hubert patiently waited until she was upright again before moving further into the building.

"Good dog," Dawn mumbled, tightly holding his collar.

She could hear the men working further to her right, in the opposite direction of where she had last seen Sunny and Joan.

Glancing over her shoulder she saw them lifting a body up on a stretcher and covering it fully with a blanket.

"Please, don't let it be Farlow," she whispered to herself.

Moving across the large hall, she came to a stop when she reached a large piece of the collapsed ceiling. There was no way she would be able to climb over it with only the use of one hand.

Leaning down she tried to look under it. There was a small gap between the block of concrete and the floor.

She knew it would be dangerous to try to get beneath it but she had to try. She had an eerie feeling that there wasn't much time to find Sunny and Joan, that any delay would be fatal.

Dawn got down on her knees and took a closer look.

It was almost pitch black under the large chunk of concrete but she thought she could see a large enough opening about ten yards away. She had no choice. Failure was not an option.

Pushing the dog behind her, to keep her view clear, she began to crawl on her stomach on the cold, wet floor. The rain was still falling continuously. She was cold to the core of her being.

Dawn felt Hubert following her example. His nose was at her heels. She took comfort in not going through this alone.

Her knees quickly became sore. She bruised them against the uneven surface as she crawled along. Her slacks rapidly became more torn and bloody as she re-injured her right leg. She could hear Hubert whimpering behind her. His paws were probably just as sore.

When there were only a few yards left to crawl she heard several men's voices call out and then there was a loud thunder and everything around her shook violently.

Agitated voices called out to her right where she had spotted the rescue team earlier.

Several large chunks of debris fell from the roof hitting the block of concrete that Dawn was crawling beneath.

She instinctively lowered her head.

Behind her Hubert was whimpering as the ear deafening sound became too much for his sensitive hearing.

Dawn held her breath. She knew that if the ceiling gave way completely she and the dog would be buried alive under tons of debris.

The men outside were now shouting orders to each other. She couldn't make out what they were saying but from their voices she understood that things had not taken a turn for the better.

When nothing more seemed to fall from the roof, Dawn began to crawl again. Looking over her shoulder she could see that Hubert was following her example. Perhaps he was trying to protect her or maybe he just didn't want to get left behind.

Slowly the woman and the dog made their way through the obstacles course of concrete, glass and rebar.

Slowly the two emerged. The agent carefully stood up. She ached all over, the pain was becoming excruciating, and her wrist was throbbing. Shear will power alone made her push on. The dog pressed against her thigh.

"Go," Dawn said, urging him on, "find Sunny."

He whimpered but then began to circle the rubble.

Suddenly he started to move in one direction as if he discovered a familiar scent. Dawn picked her way through the debris and followed him.. She didn't want to loose sight of Hubert but was afraid to fall among the debris.

The dog circled a wall and then the floor was clear of any obstacles as far as Dawn could see. She walked up to Hubert who was staring at a door that hung from its hinges.

The agent approached it and cautiously stuck her head in.

"Hello?" she called. "Sunny? Joan? Can you hear me?"

There was no reply but one look at Hubert, seeing his gaze so alert, so intense, convinced the agent that the dog had found the scent.

She pushed at the door, ignoring the pain in her wrist. She had managed to move it slightly when Hubert shot past her and began to climb the iron stairs behind the door. Moving quickly, the dog ignored her outcry of caution.

Dawn tried to see where the steps went but there was little light in the stairwell.

She could hear Hubert's barking. Ignoring the danger, she grabbed hold of the hand railing with her good hand and began her ascent into the darkness.

The stairs creaked with each step. Dawn had no way of knowing if they would support her weight or not. Every now and then they would sway. It was unnerving but she had stopped caring about her own safety long ago. All she was aware of at this moment was this blinding desire to reach the dog and find Joan and Sunny.

Suddenly she bumped into Hubert. Just beyond him she barely could see a slumped form. Throwing herself on her knees she crawled past the dog, reaching the motionless body.

With her hands she gently smoothed the long tousled hair was away from the face of the unconscious woman. Dawn was both relieved and scared out of her mind at the same time. The good thing was that Sunny was alive and breathing.

The bad thing was that Joan was not within sight.

"Sunny," Dawn said and checked her over as well as she could with one hand. "Can you hear me?"

There was no reply. She knew she had to alert the men below to evacuate the young woman as soon as possible.

Making sure that Sunny was propped up and breathing properly, Dawn instructed Hubert to guard her. She knew that the dog would not leave the blonde's side.

On trembling legs she clenched her jaw and made her way down the stairs slowly. When she reached the gap in the wall that led into the large machine hall, she tried to call out to the men.

They weren't very far away but it took her three attempts to clear her throat enough for them to hear her.

Moving rapidly towards her she knew that Sunny was going to be safe within minutes. She was happy that she had found the young woman.

Still, her only remaining thought was that she had to find Joan.

*****

Outside the destroyed building Valerie Jones was taking charge.

With the cell phone firmly placed against her ear, she rattled orders to her staff at headquarters.

Warrants were to be issued immediately. There were several searches that had to be conducted to include those at headquarters' itself. She wanted Monroe's files, papers and computer seized at once. No one and she meant no one was to have access to his office or his belongings. She had sent her assistant to get a search warrant for his home. A team of her trusted agents were already there standing by to carry out this action once the judge had issued it.

Jones knew that she had to act swiftly. She had already initiated her own trap to see who Monroe's fellow conspirators were and who else was behind the Farlow case. With that in motion Jones now turned her attention to the Fire Chief. She told him in no uncertain terms that she wanted her agents out of there and that meant NOW.

"With all due respect," O'Brien stated testily, "we had Agent Morrison evacuated and it was her own foolhardy decision to go back in there again."

Jones glared at the man and said shortly. "She wouldn't have found it necessary if you had found the other women.

"From what you said, they were at the furthest end of the building. You know we have to get them out as we find them."

Rubbing her aching temple, Jones conceded. It was true that the rescue workers had successfully extracted Monroe and his pals but they couldn't make distinctions between good guys or bad guys as they were performing their duties. They could only save as many as possible and in the order they found them.

Suddenly there was a lot of activity at the large hole in the wall. Several rescue workers appeared carrying a stretcher. Jones walked towards them and immediately identified the unconscious woman being carried out as Sunny.

Hubert were hot on their trail, receiving several uncertain glances from the men, as he didn't take his eyes off his owner.

"How is she?" Jones asked sharply.

"Her vitals are steady. Possible head and neck injuries," the closest fireman said as they carried her to the aid station. The doctor and a paramedic checked her over and then nodded.

"Her vitals appear to be stable. There's a nasty contusion to the head that will need stitches. She's going to need a scan and a full work up to rule out further internal injuries," the doctor said.

Jones looked down at the pale blonde. This was a lousy reward for loving Farlow.

She turned to the men who had evacuated the girl.

"Did you see Agent Morrison in there?" she asked.

"She's still in there," the same man replied cautiously. "My colleagues are searching the rest of stairwell where Stewart was discovered. She refused to leave. We had nobody to spare to escort her out against her will. Hopefully she will stay put where she was ordered to."

Jones smirked joylessly; Dawn wouldn't budge until Joan was found.

Her cell phone rang and she barked her name as she replied.

The voice at the other end spoke briefly.

After rattling a new set of orders, Jones slammed her cell phone shut.

Never underestimate the unexpected. Just when you think it's impossible for things to get worse; fate steps in and proves you wrong.

Again.

*****

Agent Parker was standing in the doorway of the emergency room, grimly watching the seriously injured man being worked on.

He felt no sympathy for Monroe.

Valerie Jones had not shared all the details but he knew that Monroe had sold out. He couldn't care less for what reason. The fact that this man had put other agents in danger and that some of them were still missing, was enough.

Parker frowned.

They had worked on from the moment he arrived. At one point Parker had overheard two doctors arguing over whether to transfer Monroe to a Trauma Center more suited to his types of injuries or try to stabilize him here first. It looked like a compromise had been reached. The staff worked rapidly to stabilize the bastard and arrangements were being set in motion to move him.

Machines monitored Monroe's life signs and kept him alive.

Rolling his shoulders to work out the kinks, Parker glanced further down the corridor. His new partner, Fuller, was posted at another door.

One of Monroe's goons, still only registered, as John Doe since he had not been identified yet, was in the process of dying. Cat scans showed he had suffered a major head trauma. The doctor Parker had spoken to just minutes ago had been less than optimistic. They planned to operate to relieve some of pressure but the outcome looked bleak. It was unlikely that the man would ever gain consciousness again.

The agent shook his head and glanced back at Monroe.

He had never worked with the man himself. He knew of him of course, as most agents kept tab on the commanding officers at the Bureau.

Any assignment could take you in their path and you wanted to know what to expect.

People considered Monroe ruthless and goal oriented. He didn't rub people the wrong way as much as Jones was infamous for doing, but he didn't have her solid reputation for being a brilliant and skilful boss.

Jones was adamant about doing her job to the best of her ability and was loyal to her agents. She demanded a lot from everybody but most of all from herself.

Monroe's reputation had it that he liked to cut corners and wouldn't hesitate to screw you over if you got in his way. Parker wondered how a strict and capable agent like Dawn Morrison had managed to work for him so long.

Parker knew both Morrison and Tremayne. The two women were well liked and respected, Morrison for her intuitive mind and Tremayne for her warped sense of humour. Parker grew cold with anger. The bastard lying in front of him may have cost those two their lives.

His teeth clenched.

The Chief of Emergency Services approached him and explained that arrangements had been made to transfer Monroe to the Trauma Center. Because his condition was so guarded a doctor on staff would be accompanying him. An ambulance with attendants would be arriving at any moment. If Parker wanted to accompany him it would not be a problem.

Parker thanked him and called Jones to give her a quick update. Then he conferred with his partner. Additional back up would be there any moment. He let him know Monroe's condition if anything changed. Parker then retuned to the emergency exit to await the ambulance.

What a damn assignment to be the one to ensure Monroe's safety.

A few moments later an ambulance pulled back into the doorway. An attendant with a gurney jumped out and rolled it into the emergency room.

The staff eased Monroe onto the gurney making sure that none of the leads or lines became unattached.

AS they wheeled Monroe to the ambulance one of the attendants stopped Parker as he began to climb on board.

"What do you think you're doing?" the attendant asked

"I'll be accompanying the patient."

"I'm sorry, but that's against policy."

Parker reached into his coast and flashed his badge.

"Sorry, I make the policy. This is my prisoner and I will be accompanying him."

The attendant just glared at him.

"Suit yourself."

The doctor began to climb on board as well.

"What do you think you're doing?" the attendant blurted out.

The doctor gave the attendant a glare.

"Are you new or something? This is my patient and I'll be coming along as well so why don't we get going before this guy dies en route."

The attendant simply nodded, climbed on board and slammed the door.

Slowly the ambulance pulled away from the ramp. In a few moments it was on the interstate with its siren's a blazing.

The doctor was carefully monitoring Monroe for any changes and was adjusting the drip.

Parker sat and watched when a sound to his left made him pivot.

A gun pressed into Parker's side

Parker reached automatically for his gun but had to relent as the gun pressed painfully hard into his ribs.

"Don't!" a voice hissed into his ear.

"Not a sound," the attendant hissed to Parker.

So far the doctor hadn't noticed that anything was a miss. His attention was strictly on his patient. The only sounds were heard were that of the siren; the portable ventilator and the occasional muffled beeping of the monitor.

"You'll never get away with this," Parker said huskily.

The attendant restraining him didn't answer.

The last thing Parker knew before the darkness settled over him was the prick of a needle pressed to his thigh.

*****

The lights of the rescue workers adequately lit the stairwell.

Dawn was under strict orders not to move from the bottom of the stairwell. She knew that the rescue workers were exasperated that she refused to leave but she had also glimpsed signs of understanding and a reluctant respect in some of them too.

These were people who knew what it meant to lose a partner. They could relate to her need to be there, to do something. They also knew the fear of your worst-case scenario becoming a reality.Dawn closed her eyes briefly and sighed inaudibly as that fear swept through her.

If they were lucky Joan would be found further up along the stairs but Dawn was doubtful. Knowing Joan's dynamic nature she pictured the woman she loved dragging Sunny behind her to hurry the younger woman and get her to safety. That would have meant Joan coming down the stairs ahead of the blonde, which meant she could be buried beneath the rubble.

The agent bit her lower lip and flinched at the unexpected pain. She realised belatedly that she had bit her lips bloody at some point.

There were two teams searching for Joan. One was going up the stairs and one was below at a location where she ought to have fallen if she was still on the ledge when the explosion occurred.

Dawn glanced around her. Nobody was in sight.

Stealthily she moved away from the stairwell and around the corner of the wall against the machine hall.

The sight that met her made her inhale sharply.

When she had passed earlier it had been very dark and the rain had been pouring down. Now large searchlights lighted it up and the rain had subsided a little.

She looked up.

The hole in the roof was large. Several of the pillars in the middle of the machine hall had crumbled and Dawn guessed that Farlow had decided to blast them away in order to take out Monroe.

"They didn't leave you much choice, did they?" the agent mumbled to herself. "You were cornered and they were getting too close but damn you you may have killed her Joanie "

Silent sobs broke free from her throat and she hid her face in her hands.

"I hate you, Grace Farlow," she whispered behind her fingers. "I hate you "

She realised that the scientist had assumed she was alone with Monroe and his goons. She had no way of knowing how quickly the agents had been on her trail. Most importantly she had obviously not realised that the most important person to her had been in the building.

Dawn kept seeing Sunny's unconscious body in front of her. She could also picture the young woman's cool and collected way of dealing with the men that had Dawn and Joan at gunpoint in the forest.

The young blonde was brave the agent thought warily. She was impulsive but also appeared logical and calculating.

A sudden outcry of one of the men in the machine hall attracted her attention. With her heart racing she walked towards the rescue workers.

They were rapidly removing some large pieces of debris and steel wires.

"Is it her?" Dawn croaked.

The man closest to her turned around.

"We found someone," he conceded. "Whether it is her or not is hard to tell. What is she wearing?"

Dawn swallowed hard.

"Black clothes, possibly a backpack full of weapon's and ammunition."

"Then it must be her," the man said gently.

Jackhammers began to rattle against the concrete as the rescue workers began their efforts to extract the woman trapped below.

Dawn quietly prayed.

"Please be alive Joanie. Please."

It seemed to take the rescue workers forever to remove the debris. Painstakingly they removed each piece as they worked their way down to the victim that lied buried below.

There were consequences if they moved t o quickly or failed to anticipate how the load of debris would shift.

One rescuer, a paramedic, was able to reach Joan once the team had to secure part of the concrete with aircushions and small hydraulic jacks. As he slowly lowered himself to Joan he

carried on his back a ruck containing medical supplies, thirty minutes of oxygen and IV fluids.

Once he reached Joan he made a rapid assessment.

"Her pulse is slow and shallow but it's there," he reported. "Her breathing is raspy and shallow. We might be dealing with a collapsed lung. We need to move this junk so I can work. "

"Are we looking at compression injuries?" the chief of the rescue team asked.

"What do you think?"

"Sorry, stupid question. How do you want to handle this

Mike?"

The paramedic looked up and spotted Dawn.

"Doc are you up to this? I'm going to need some help."

Dawn nodded and came forward.

There were a lot of stirring among the men as they radioed the aid station, requesting backup.

"Look here's the story. We have to make sure that we have all our bases covered before we go lifting this crap off your partner."

"I understand."

"Let's try to get some lines going."

Dawn worked her way to Joan and began to search for a vein to start an IV.

"You hang in there Joan you hear me. I've got you now. Everything's going to be fine."

The rest of the rescue team began to pull large pieces of concrete away from the Dawn and the paramedic so they would have more room to manoeuvre.

"Good news, doc. The pupils are responsive."

"Thank God," Dawn said in relief. "How long before we cane get her out?"

The paramedic frowned.

"That's the tricky part. From here I can't tell how badly crushed she is. We have to do this slowly or we'll kill her."

Dawn nodded

Another doctor and some additional paramedics had arrived.

"Mike, we're going to try to work from the other side."

"Sounds good."

Minutes went by as the workers relentlessly removed the debris that trapped Joan. Another group had cleared a passageway so that once she was free they could move her rapidly to aid.

"What's that?" Dawn asked as a flapping noise became increasingly louder.

"A chopper. I imagine they've called in a Medevac from Fort Belvoir for your partner. We'll get her to the Trauma Center in no time, doc. I promise."

"Hey Mike, we're all set."

"Doc Grady. How's it looking from your end?"

"We've got her right ankle Mike and there's a femoral pulse. We can't reach anything else.

Dawn swallowed hard. This was it.

The paramedic reached for his walkie talkie and pushed the squelch button "Medic 01 the Medic 05 over"

"Go ahead 05."

"Initiating extraction in one mike. Are you prepared to receive over."

"Roger, standing by"

"Okay folks, its showtime," the team leader yelled out.

Dawn could hear the sounds of heavy hydraulic equipment as the largest piece of what was left of the ledge was lifted off Joan.

Quickly both medical teams began to work on Joan as blood came gushing out of the left leg where the concrete had crushed the bone.

Dawn was managing her head, monitoring her airways and pulse when Joan began to go into cardiac arrest.

"Oh God!!!" Dawn screamed. "I'm losing her. Joan!"

*****

Continued in part 12
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