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    WolfM
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Embers - 3. Embers 3

Brandon woke from his nap feeling somewhat less than rested. His dreams had bordered on nightmares and left him frustrated. The last thing he wanted was to be put into a situation like he had in the past. The initial meet with his crew did not leave him with the impression he hoped for. He knew wolves would sometimes took what they wanted regardless if someone gave off the right scent, but he did not have to like it. Given his small size, in both human and wolf forms, larger animals tended to treat him like an omega. That meant he often had to fight to protect himself. Winning determined who had the right to take their opponent. He learned quickly it was not about sex. If it had been, he might have enjoyed it. As a show of strength or dominance he had mounted more than one unwilling wolf following battle, and others had done the same to him. It was one aspect of life as a lycan he still did not understand or like.

With no support or friends, and in a foreign country, Brandon did not want to fight if anyone tried something. But if it happened, he was determined not to go down without causing as much pain and damage as he could. Two questions rolled through his mind: Why did my alpha have to ask? And why couldn’t I just be a normal human?

He wandered back to where the crew was congregating and sat on a patch of grass.

Lucas took off his respirator to get a drink and subtly sniffed the air. It was difficult to pick up scents over the smoke. A grin crossed his face when he realized his appraisal was noticed and received a nod the newcomer was indeed alright. “Feel better? Nothing like a lie down in the arvo when ya get the chance.”

“Arvo? What’s that? Yeah, I feel better, thanks. Between the flight, meeting, and drive, it’s been a long fuckin’ day.”

“We’ll have you speaking Aussie in no time.” Lachlan pulled off his mask to drink his beer. “Arvo’s afternoon. And this time of year it runs late. Won’t be getting dark until sometime after nine o’clock.” He pointed at the beer can. “And this sweet darling’s a stubby or frothy. Want one?”

Brandon accepted the beverage. “Do you guys abbreviate every word?”

“Pretty much. Short words leave more time to drink. By the way, they’ll be serving food soon.” Joe adjusted his sunglasses. “Enjoy it while you can. We don’t make it back here every day when we’re on the line and the grub out there isn’t always the best. We received a humanitarian shipment of… What do you Yanks call them? MREs?”

“Yeah. Meals ready to eat.” Brandon sipped the beer, undecided if he liked it compared to the American version. “Hope they sent some of the pepperoni pizza ones.”

“Been seeing plenty of roasted roo. Little overcooked for my taste though.” Thomas upended his can.

“Not funny.” Joe glared at the man.

“Wish they’d let us buy a bottle of wine. May not be able to get drunk, damn lycan metabolism, but sure would taste good.” William’s gaze dropped when the boss glaring at him. “Not that this frothy you scored us isn’t great, Joe.”

“Not many available bottle shops around here so make ’em last, boys.”

“I kinda hope when I’m done I can come back here and try some wine before I fly home.” Brandon picked a piece of grass off his boot.

“If the Liston Winery and the others around here don’t burn down, I’ll bring you back here myself. Deal?” Lucas held out his hand.

“Deal.” Brandon graciously bumped fists with the bigger man.

“Awe, stop hitting on the new guy, you damn poofter.” Once again, the jovial response indicated it was all in good fun. “He may want to hunt down some big tit sheila to take him around.”

Now the guys were roaring.

“Rack off, Lachie.” Lucas waved a one finger salute at the guy.

“Don’t you go teaching him shit like that. Any of you! Gonna get the guy in trouble. What, you just drive in from Backwater Springs in the Outback?” Joe turned so he was facing Brandon. “Whatever you do while you’re in Oz, do not under any circumstances call any woman a sheila. You hear me?”

Brandon nodded. “Hey Lachlan, I can’t remember if I heard poofter used yet. What’s that mean?” His mask hid the grin, but Lucas caught the wink cast in his direction.

“Well, umm.”

“Go on, explain it to him, Lachie. Then we’ll all go get our dinner.” Joe stood with his arms crossed.

“It’s umm – another way of saying gay.” He cast his eyes down.

“Oh, so probably like when guys call me and my husband a faggot in the U.S.” Brandon watched the guy carefully and could detect quiet giggles from the others. “It’s been my experience the guys using the term the most are the ones wanting it the most. You’re not my type, but I guess like Oliver said earlier, a hole’s a hole, and I’m a long way from home.” He stood and walked past Joe, letting the older wolf see the enjoyment in his eyes. Brandon turned back to the group. “We getting food or is someone waiting for a root?”

The entire crew, including a severely blushing Lachlan, woofed their enjoyment.

******

After everyone had their fill, the group broke up to relax. Lucas pulled Brandon aside for a private talk.

“Wanted to make sure you’re okay. And I’m not talking about how you put Lachlan in his place masterfully. I know something really bothered you when they talked about the guy who left.”

“I’m fine.” He paused as he felt himself turned to face Lucas. “Really.”

“Damn smoke makes it so I can’t tell for sure by scent. Look, I’m the number two guy on the crew and the only other confirmed poof. I don’t know you well yet, but hope we become mates while we’re working together. So if something comes up, feel free to talk to me about anything, including what shook you up earlier.”

A heavy sigh wheezed out of the respirator filter as Brandon’s shoulders dropped a little. “Hopefully, by mates you mean friends, since you said you already have one and you know I do. Look, I get a little upset when I hear guys joke about rape. Especially wolves who use their instincts, size, or rank as an excuse.” He lifted his eyes back to the guy. “My body reacted to what I heard, and I tried to let it go since I’m new and hoping he didn’t really mean it.”

“Okay, feeling older brother type protectiveness at the moment. Blame my wolf and human sides. I think I know what you’re saying and why. I’ll try to make sure that type of joking’s kept to a minimum. And not that I don’t think you can’t take care of yourself with all those muscles you’re mostly hiding, but if anyone tries something because you’re the smallest wolf here, I’ve got your back. And yeah, I meant mate as your friend.”

“Thanks.” Brandon went quiet for a moment. “So how did a lycan-only crew really end up with a human?”

“One of the people from my department had to go out on medical leave.”

“Wait. Lycan rarely get sick. Why would he take leave?”

“Never said it was a he. Zara’s damn good at the job, but she went and got preggo, and was told she couldn’t go out until the pup was born. Someone in the command chain who didn’t know about us put the human on our crew before we could fill the spot.”

******

“Lucas, once we finish breakfast, give Brandon a rundown on our trucks.” Joe pointed a piece of toast at his second in command. “I want him to know as much as possible about them before we go back to work tomorrow.”

“Will do, Boss. I was already planning on it.”

“Good on ya. I’ve gotta head over to the command tent and see what these beasts are doing today. Hopefully they don’t pull us back early.”

Once the men finished eating, they donned their respirators and eye protection, and made their way through camp. Lucas led the American to a group of five trucks.

“Right. These are ours. We’ve got four men to a truck. All of them are four wheel drive. These two are category one tankers and pumpers. I think they’re similar to your type four trucks. That beast is Joe’s and is a cat six heaving tanker. These other two can get most anywhere since they’re so small.”

“Yeah, the little rigs are kind of like our type five and six grassfire trucks. Maybe a little smaller. The specs on these were in the files I had to review on the flight.” Brandon spun around to face the taller man. “Wait, you fit four of those guys in these things? Talk about cramming large things in small spaces. Are those Toyota Land Cruisers?”

“Yeah, series 70 utes. You’ll see Landys everywhere. I’m sure making things fit is a specialty to some people. I hear doms are good at that.”

“Okay, Landy I understand. Ute I still haven’t figured out. You called your car, truck thing one of those.”

“It’s short for utility. Like you asked yesterday, we abbreviate a lot.” Lucas continued his briefing. “You’re gonna be on this cat one with me, Noah, and Jaxon. We named him Brutus. The other cat one’s Aries.”

“You’re not putting me on one of the smaller trucks?”

“No. Each truck belongs to one pack. We all work together as a unit, but we stick with our own equipment for the most part. The human we got stuck with and you are the exception. We’re not gonna go all territorial and piss on Brutus so you know it’s ours. Even though you’re from the outside, we’re happy to have you with us.”

“Thank you. I guess that makes sense. So five crews pulled together to form the Mutts? Does that make Joe the alpha and you the beta of this group?”

“Yeah, it basically does. The guys sometimes call me beta.” Lucas ran his hand over the truck’s fender. “He may be an ugly brute, but hasn’t left us stranded yet. Your seat’s right rear which give you the call sign Brutus four.” He rolled up the equipment door just behind the cab. “It has hose reels on the left and right inside these forward compartments with a five centimeter hose that extends to one hundred meters. There’s an additional six hundred meters of hose stored across the hood.”

“Wait, there’s no hood on this thing.” Brandon pointed to the front of the truck. “It’s a cab over.”

“No, mate, the hood’s up top. What you’re thinkin’ of is called the bonnet. Moving on, Brutus and the other cat one have a six centimeter remote monitor turret up top, on the hood.” He paused and turned towards Brandon. “You do call those monitors in the USA, don’t you? Or is it just the bloody, big nozzle to you guys?”

The American had to laugh. “Yes, we use the same name for them back home. Bloody, big nozzle refers to other things.”

Luc’s eyes crinkled, telegraphing the smile hidden by the respirator. “Okay, then on with the briefing. We try to only use the big monitor if we got a water source to pump from. The tank holds nearly thirty-eight hundred liters. We can burn through that in three minutes if you’re using everything opened to full.”

“I’m not sure what the conversion is, but the trucks I’ve worked on hold close to eight hundred gallons. Usually grunts like me spend more time assigned to hand work instead of hoses.”

“You are checked out on pumpers though, aren’t you?” There was concern in Lucas’ eyes.

“Yeah. I train with them regularly and worked on trucks several times. It just depends on the conditions. There’ve been some deployments all I did was point a hose.”

“Gave me a bloody scare thinking they gave us the wrong guy.” The Aussie wiped his forehead. “All I care about is you know how to work a hose.”

“Well, if I could get ahold of my husband, he could tell you if I know how to use one or not.”

Lucas stared at the smaller lycan for a moment, trying to keep his composure. “Jax… Umm, Jax handles the pumps and can control them from a console inside the cab or the panel at the back. All our trucks are pump-and-roll so we don’t have to stop to use a hose. These big ones also have in-cabin sprayers in case we get caught in a burn over. Good so far?” He waited for a nod before continuing. “Noah’s support for the three of us. He also runs the remote control for the big, bloody nozzle and the two monitors mounted on the front corners. Inside controls are on the rear left seat or he can plug into the back panel.” He opened the door and pointed for Brandon to hop in. “We managed to get an upgrade the other truck doesn’t have.” Lucas flipped a couple switches and a video monitor lit up. “We’ve got daylight, night mode, and infrared. Aries doesn’t have the camera and has to aim by sight. The top monitor can be controlled manually too, if you climb up on the hood.”

“If I need to, how do I get up there?” Brandon hopped out of the truck and followed Lucas around back again, climbing the small ladder rungs running up the corner. “Nice view from up here.”

“View’s pretty damn nice from down here too.”

“So we’ve established you’re the bottom. You’ll have to fantasize what it’s like looking up at a top like me on your own time though. We still have work to do.”

Lucas laughed so hard he had to pull his mask off. “Oh, I needed that. Even though we try to have fun when we’re off, knowing how bad it is all over, puts a damper on it. Thanks for the stress relief.” He held his fist out and was visibly gratified with the bump it received. “Doing okay or need a break from information overload?” He waited as the American climbed back down.

“You’re welcome. I like to leave a guy satisfied. And a little playful teasing rarely hurts.” Brandon shoulder-bumped Lucas. “I’m good. Let’s keep going.”

“I’m on the left hose, and we’ll leave the right one to you.”

“You sure I can reach that high to pull it down? Might need one of you big guys to lift me up.” Brandon’s chuckles reverberated through the face mask.

“Smart arse. You’re just hoping someone feels you up.”

“I’m used to being felt up. By the way, I’m not the one who broke eye contact and looked down.”

“Yeah, it’s gonna be fun having you on the crew. I’ve never got to work with another poof. The banter’s fun. Will be nice to have someone who might get my humor.”

“Give me a signal when you’re telling a joke, and I’ll try to show gay solidarity by laughing.” Brandon winked and returned to inspecting the equipment.

Lucas methodically went around the truck, going over every compartment, switch, knob, and valve. When he finished, he quizzed Brandon on where pieces of equipment could be found, and how to operate the pumps if something happened to Jaxon and Noah. “I know we’re literally throwing you into the fire, since you don’t have advance training on our trucks, but I think you’re gonna do fine.”

“If all else fails, give me one of the hand tools, and I’ll fight the fire that way.”

“Let’s move on to the small trucks. These are cat seven rigs. This one’s Glades and the other’s Tilly.” The bonnet was open on one of the Toyota Land Cruisers with a body bent over the engine. “Having problems with this one, Jax?”

The man looked up from his work and shook his head. “No problem. Just checking everything over. Gonna work on ours next.” He watched as his co-worker showed the new guy around.

“How much water does this one carry?”

“About twelve hundred liters.” Lucas pointed to the equipment mounted on the back. “They’ve got two hoses that run out one-hundred meters.”

Brandon was trying to work out the conversion. “Meter is around a yard, so that should be a little over three-hundred feet. Is the gear stowed the same as the other rigs?”

“Pretty much. We want it to be easy to find what’s needed no matter which truck’s closest.” Jaxon wiped grease from his hands. “Brutus carries more, but we’ve got this one crammed to the gills.”

“Joe’s cat six is Zeus, has its hoses mounted on the back, and equipment’s stored behind the cab. Plus there’s a remote controlled monitor on the roo rammer. This one carries nine thousand liters.” Lucas guided Brandon around the largest of the trucks. “Given water can be scarce some of the places we’re working, we try to conserve as much as possible. Sometimes using only one hose to douse what others dig up.”

Brandon nodded as he inspected the truck.

“But if there’s a place to drop a hose and suck up some water, we’re gonna drown that fuckin’ fire.”

Jaxon answered a few of Brandon’s questions before Lucas could. By lunch time, the two men were confident their new guy could handle the job.

“After we take a break, we’re gonna see if you can drive Brutus. It’s just in case of an emergency. You’ll be playing tourist most anytime we’re driving.”

“Should be fun since everything’s on the wrong side for me. It’s a little bigger than my Datsun or Yamaha, but it can’t be any worse than trying to back up a horse trailer without hitting anything.”

“Datsun? Now there’s a name you don’t hear often. Let me guess, a Zed car?”

“Nope, pre Z. A 1600 roadster. Think the ones here are called a Fairlady like in Japan.”

******

Brandon parked the truck after a short drive. It was not that difficult to adjust to sitting on the right side to steer. The fact it was an automatic made it easier. He drove manual transmission vehicles back home, but did not think he could handle shifting with the left hand.

Joe met the men as they did a walk around Brutus. “How’d he do today?”

“Pretty damn good.” Lucas patted Brandon on the back. “I had him drive and went out where I could test him on the hose.”

“Perv. So that’s why you went out. To pull out your hose. Brandon, if you wanna file a harassment complaint against him, let me know.”

“He was harmless.” Brandon winked at his new friend.

“Ouch. Talk about wounding a wolf’s pride.” Lucas playfully pushed the American.

“I’m comfortable knowing where things are and how everything works. It’s a crash course, but I’m as ready to work tomorrow as I can be.”

******

In the morning, Brandon pulled on one of his yellow Nomex, turnout jumpsuits, as he readied for his first day of work. The bright colored outfit worn by firefighters all over the world was heat and flame-resistant. The lightweight material made it a favorite safety gear for everything from race car drivers to military pilots, and emergency responders. He replaced the goggles and respirator he had worn the previous two days with his own cone shaped full face shield. The dual filters worked much better than the small one he had been breathing through. The heat of the day posed the only issue for wearing such a device. As an afterthought, he shouldered his backpack, grabbing his helmet and coat, hoping he would not need to wear the latter in the sweltering heat.

Lucas inspected the breathing device once he was geared up. “I need to get one of those. We’re all volunteers so we have to buy most of our own kit.”

“I get paid by the county I live in, or the state when I’m called up. The pack helps buy anything else I think I need beyond what’s provided by the departments.”

He watched as the brigade commander laid out what the current situation in the area was. Weather conditions that had eased overnight deteriorated rapidly as the sun rose. As the heat increased, the winds were expected to pick up, and it would get even worse. Especially with the fire creating its own weather.

Soon after the meeting ended a call came over the radio. “We need more hose trucks. Bloody fools didn’t evacuate when ordered.”

“Mutts, you’re up.” The brigade commander pointed at the men.

Lucas grabbed Brandon’s arm as their crew headed for the trucks. “That’s us. Guess you’re as settled in as you get. Time to work.”

The fifteen-mile drive from base camp passed quickly, giving Brandon just enough time to double check his equipment. When they arrived, a solitary fire truck valiantly attempted to protect several structures. Its crew was overwhelmed as hot embers blew around. The ever increasing winds spread them like dandelion seeds.

A man from each truck ran a line to a pond and the pumps were fired up. Others readied the hoses and prepared for the fight. The new arrivals covered for the truck already on scene, as its men attempted to speed up the evacuation of remaining residents from the area.

The day was already over one-hundred degrees, and it was just past six in the morning. The approaching fire made it feel even worse. The dark brown haze changed in color as brilliant orange lit up trees that moments before had stood in their green glory about one hundred feet away.

Brandon held a hose, spraying a residence, and Lucas did the same.

The American knelt low as he did his job, trying to get below the intense heat.

A panicked voice coming through the radio headset caught everyone’s attention. “Bloody fuckin’ hell. Take cover.”

The Liston Winery and Liston Family are the intellectual property of Carlos Hazday from his CJ series and are used with his gracious permission.

Copyright © 2021 WolfM; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

22 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

I am loving this story!

Thank you, Wesley. :)

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19 minutes ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter, loving the story. Brandon and Lucas are gonna work well together.

Thank you, Chris. :)

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10 minutes ago, Kitt said:

I think you have been spending way too much time with Carlos and his damned cliffies!

Those are all Mr. Wolf's doing! I haven't written a really good cliffhanger since I ended Singer without announcing the competition's winner. I think I'm due.

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1 hour ago, Carlos Hazday said:

A couple of those friends posed for calendars. Too bad they were all straight. Raul had a kid born with Cystic Fibrosis, and I gave the toddler a golden puppy as a present when my retriever had a littler. The puppy made it to the calendar.

Firemen and puppies are always a hot seller for calendars.

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1 hour ago, Kitt said:

I think you have been spending way too much time with Carlos and his damned cliffies!

Well done sir.

Quite true.  As a first responder (EMS on and industrial squad) I was always telling the newbies not to worry, when the time came if you had paid attention in training, things would come naturally.  Training kicks in and you don't even think, just do what needs doing.  

LOL. Thank you, Kitt. Anytime my writing or ability to employ a cliffhanger gets compared to Carlos is a wonderful compliment.

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1 hour ago, Carlos Hazday said:

Those are all Mr. Wolf's doing! I haven't written a really good cliffhanger since I ended Singer without announcing the competition's winner. I think I'm due.

I never gave much thought to cliffhangers before I started working with you. For the most part, I still don't. If they happen to work out that way, it's a bonus. :)

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Great chapter, so he is literally thrown into the thick of things, I no better way to test him , no doubt he will be become a hero of sorts

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13 hours ago, mikedup said:

Great chapter, so he is literally thrown into the thick of things, I no better way to test him , no doubt he will be become a hero of sorts

Thank you, Mike. Pretty much how it goes. You arrive at the base camp and are quickly on the line. The thought of two words made me cringe while writing this and almost made me box this story: hero and heroic. It's just a job that needs to be done. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Jeez. Plenty of training and conversation, lots of good people to get to know. And just like that, the fire burns way out of control. 

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On 5/18/2021 at 2:22 PM, Parker Owens said:

Jeez. Plenty of training and conversation, lots of good people to get to know. And just like that, the fire burns way out of control. 

That's about normal. Though usually without the little training bit. You start to work as soon as you get to the fire camp.

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