This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
"…I think that just about wraps things up for this meeting," Craig Brice said as he shut his leather-bound notebook. Around him, nine members of the Los Angeles County Paramedic Advisory Board offered silent prayers of thanks. "Now, do I have a motion…"
"I so move," Bob Bellingham quickly jumped in.
"Seconded," Roy DeSoto added.
"Aye," seven voices chimed.
Brice looked around at the others, blinking as if caught in the glow of a Mack Truck's headlights. "Uhhh…meeting adjourned," he said after a moment. The paramedics quickly rose to their feet and made a beeline for the bathroom, with John Gage leading the way. The doctors and nurses of Rampart took one look at the acute desperation in their eyes and got out of their way.
"Man," he said with a sigh of relief at the washbasin. "I didn't think he was ever gonna finish."
"Well, there was a lot of things to discuss," DeSoto pointed out.
"Yeah, and he made sure we discussed them…to death," Rico Torres said with a snort.
"Oh, Brice isn't so bad, once you get to know him." Bellingham examined himself in the mirror and made a few critical alignments to his receding hairline. "And let's face it, we wouldn’t have gotten anything done except empty the coffee pot if not for him."
Torres snorted again. "Of course you'd say that, Animal. You have to work with him. God only knows how you put up with it."
"It's not too hard. Just let him alphabetize the drug box once a day and pick up the trash out of the squad, and Craig Brice is a very happy man."
"I’d like to know where he got those statistics about number of calls per station and squad per month," Gage said thoughtfully. "He probably spent a week or two on his off-time coming up with that stuff."
"On his day off? Dream on," Andy Pafko laughed.
"Hey, we're talking about Brice here," Gage pointed out.
Pafko and Torres shook their heads. "If that's what makes him happy, more power to him," Torres said. "We gotta get back to 36. See you guys around, okay?"
"Okay." DeSoto and Gage started back for the lounge, but Bellingham went in the opposite direction. "What's up?" Gage asked. "You trying to ditch Brice?"
"Nah. Promised my mom I'd call. Tell Craig I'll be back in ten minutes or so."
"Will do," DeSoto promised.
"O'Neill and Jackson sure didn't waste any time getting out of there," Gage noted as they walked down the hospital corridor.
"Jack said they needed to get some supplies," DeSoto replied as they walked into the lounge. Brice was sitting at the table, poring over a list of reports and scribbling some figures down on a pad of paper. "Let me get a cup of coffee, and we can get going ourselves."
"Okay." Gage started to pick up their gear, but Brice's intent scribbling won over his curiosity. "So, Brice, what'cha doin'?"
The paramedic glanced up. "Oh, nothing. Just getting some statistics together to see which squads get the most calls between midnight and six a.m."
"Well, you sure you want to get bogged down in all those numbers?" Gage grinned. "I mean, what if you and Animal get a call while you're adding those things up?"
"Won't take but a minute," Brice assured him, returning to his work.
Gage leaned over closer. "You some kind of math genius, Brice?"
"Nope." Brice reached into his briefcase and retrieved a small rectangular device. "I've got this, Gage."
"Hey, isn't that one of those new electronic calculators?" DeSoto commented as he peered over Brice's shoulder. "I hear those are something."
"They sure are." Brice was all but beaming with pride. "They're going to be the wave of the future, mark my words. You wouldn't believe how handy they are."
"Oh yeah?" Gage frowned. "What's it do?"
"Watch." Before their eyes, Brice entered a long series of numbers, his fingers stabbing at the little buttons on the surface of the device. As he worked, tiny red numbers danced across the small screen. Within two minutes, Brice was finished and the answer to his query was proudly blazing on the display.
"See what I mean?"
"Hey, that is pretty neat," Gage nodded. He reached out a hand toward Brice. "Can I see that for a minute?"
Brice smiled and pulled the calculator back. "No."
A look of pained outrage crossed Gage's face. "Well, why not?"
"Because it's expensive, and I know all too well how you and expensive equipment don't get along well." Before Gage could protest further, Brice added, "I know all about the damage you've done to the biophone--including the elephant. I know about the tape recorder you tried to install in your squad. Charlie's told me all about your 'improvements' over the years. No way, Gage. This is not a toy. You are not putting one finger on this."
"Aw, c'mon, Brice…" Johnny protested.
"Forget it." Just then Brice's name was paged over the hospital speakers; the paramedic jumped to his feet and hurried out the door. Gage's eyes followed Brice as he left, then drifted over to where the calculator lay, utterly helpless and at his mercy.
The expression on Gage's face was not lost on his partner. "Junior, don't," warned DeSoto.
"He'll never know," Gage said, his eyes lit up like a six-year-old's on Christmas morning.
"Yes he will. This is Brice we're talking about. He'll know."
"I just want to see it, that's all." Johnny sat down in Brice's chair and stared at the calculator. "Maybe just punch a few numbers in, see what it does."
"John, it adds, subtracts, divides, and multiplies. It does everything you do, only faster and more accurately." Station 51 had still not recovered from the Night Johnny Balanced His Checkbook.
"Let me see…"
A bright grin radiated from John Gage's features as he held up the calculator for Roy to see. There on the display was the crimson figure "4". "Isn't this neat, Roy?" he gushed. "Man, I would love to have one of these babies!" He began punching in a random series of numbers. "This is great, Roy!"
Roy DeSoto closed his eyes and rubbed them with the hand that wasn't strangling his coffee cup. "John, put it down. Please. Before Brice gets back."
"Wait a minute…" Gage frowned and punched a specific series of numbers, then held it up. "Whattya think?"
"Very nice. 0.7734. Now put it down."
"Ah, but when you turn it upside down…" Johnny grinned triumphantly. "Now what do you see?"
Roy frowned. "A period dancing across the display from left to right. How'd you do that?"
"What?" Gage turned the calculator around. "It was supposed to say 'hello'! What is this thing doing?"
"John, for God's sake," DeSoto pleaded, "put it down and maybe Brice will think it broke on its own! You don't want to have to replace one of those, believe me."
"Wait a minute, let me try something…" Gage bit his lip. "So how much do these things cost, anyway?"
Roy told him. Johnny carefully set the calculator down and got up, moving as far away from it as he possibly could. A moment later, Craig Brice entered the room. "Hey, guys. Bellingham needed the drug box and I had the keys." He frowned, noticing that both Gage and DeSoto were looking at everything in the room except for him…and the calculator. "Everything okay?"
"Okay?" Johnny yelped. "Oh yeah. Everything's fine. Right, Roy?"
"Oh, yeah," DeSoto nodded. "Just fine."
"All right." Brice went over to his pile of papers and looked down at the calculator. "What's this?"
Gage looked up guiltily. "What's what?"
"The calculator. I didn't leave it here. Did either of you guys…?"
"No, no!" Gage blurted. "It's just…well, we were just sitting around, y'know, talking about the meeting and everything, and well, all of a sudden, you know, it just started, well…"
"Yeah," DeSoto added. "It just started, uhh, acting funny."
"So I picked it up to see if it was okay," Gage jumped in. "That's all."
"So…is it?" Roy asked.
Brice smiled. "Yeah. Just means the batteries are low, that's all." He turned the calculator off and slid it back into its protector. "Well, I've got to get going--Bellingham said he'd be done in a few minutes. See you later."
"Yeah," Gage said quickly. "See you, Brice."
"Take care," DeSoto said with a half-hearted wave.
Brice headed out, but paused at the door. "Gage?"
Johnny's head snapped up. "Yeah?"
The smile on Brice's face was positively wicked. "Any nitwit can punch in 0.7734. What takes skill and intelligence is to take 519.7248, divide by 7 days, then by 24 hours, then take one quarter of that. See you later."
After Brice had gone, John stared at the doorway for the longest time. "Roy?"
"There are times I really hate that guy."