Title: Incident Response
Fandom: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun | A Certain Scientific Railgun
Rating: U
Summary: As the first responder to the latest Level Upper victim, Uiharu Kazari has to remember her training as best she can.
Notes: Written for [personal profile] genarti as a treat for Parallels 2013. (Also on AO3.) Spoilers through EP 11, and for the Level Upper Arc in general. Additional notes are at the end.


Incident Response

Uiharu Kazari had no false illusions about her athletic abilities. The physical component of the Judgment basic training course had left her a boneless, quivering wreck, and it had taken hours of Shirai-san's personal coaching to get her to a point where she could meet the course's minimum passing requirements for strength and endurance. More than a year later, she still struggled with the calisthenics and other exercises needed to maintain her physical fitness certifications -- and even at school, where there was much less at stake, she could barely keep pace with the rest of the girls when they ran laps around the sports fields during gym class.

But right now, she would run until her legs gave out and her lungs couldn't draw another breath, if only she could reach Saten-san in time.

****

The Sakugawa Middle School student dormitories, like most secondary school housing complexes in Academy City, were squat blocks of one- or two-room units stacked on top of each other. The stairs were made of unforgiving concrete, and after the first flight Kazari's legs felt so rubbery that she had to haul herself up by the handrail to reach Saten-san's floor. She actually tripped over the last step, hissing more from surprise than pain when she banged her elbow against the metal railing, but she didn't stop moving. Saten-san's room was only three doors away, two doors away, one door --

Her hand slipped on her first attempt to open the door. For a sickening moment, she thought that Saten-san had locked it from the inside. But a second try was more successful, and as she flung open the door a long shaft of sunlight illuminated the darkened room.

Saten-san was lying face-down on the floor next to her bed.

'S...Saten-san!' Kazari staggered into the room, not even bothering to remove her shoes, and dropped to her knees beside her friend. 'Saten-san -- p-please, Saten-san, don't be gone already -- '

Saten-san didn't respond to a hand on her arm, or a gentle shaking, or a harder shaking. Her body was heavy and limp as Kazari rolled her onto her side. Strands of her long hair fell across her face, sticking to the wet spots on her cheeks where her tears had not completely dried. Her eyes were closed, and she seemed to be breathing normally, but Kazari had spent enough time working on the Level Upper cases to know that there was a big difference between a natural sleep and this unnatural coma.

It was impossible to know how long Saten-san had been unconscious. The Level Upper seemed to be hitting its victims faster and faster now; Saten-san might have collapsed as soon as she ended the call, or held on for another five or ten minutes before she succumbed to its effects. Kazari couldn't be sure, and didn't stop to speculate. Her head was ringing with half-remembered echoes, memories of her Judgment instructors' voices, telling her what she had to do in a situation like this.

'Put the victim in the recovery position,' she mumbled to herself. 'On one side...bend the knee...the far knee....' Saten-san wasn't as tall or heavy as some of the other Judgment trainees in her first-aid classes, but Kazari's hands still felt clumsy as she arranged Saten-san's arms and legs, following the steps that had been drilled into her brain over hours of training and refresher courses. 'Support the head...chin tilted...airway open....'

Once she was sure that Saten-san was positioned correctly, she sat back and dug in her pocket for her phone. She had to follow Judgment procedures, and Judgment procedures said that she had to report this incident. She hit the speed-dial number for the branch office, and pressed the phone hard against her ear to keep her hand from shaking.

She heard the answering click in the middle of the second ring. 'Judgment Branch 177, Konori Mii speaking.'

Kazari felt her chin wobble at the sound of the familiar voice. 'K-Konori-sempai....' She gulped down a big breath of air, a desperate effort to keep from bursting into tears right then and there.

'Uiharu-san?' Konori-sempai's tone sharpened. 'Is that you? What's going on?'

Kazari bit down on the side of her tongue, forcing herself to pull her scattered thoughts together. She couldn't lose control, not now, not while she was -- much as it sickened her to think of it this way -- the Judgment officer in charge of an incident scene.

'Y-yes, it's me,' she said, once she found her voice again. 'I'm with Saten-san. She's unconscious, just like the others.'

'What?' There was a rustle on the other end of the line, as if Konori-sempai had shifted the phone in her hand. 'Like what others?'

'She used the Level Upper.' Kazari's throat hurt just to say the words. 'Her friends used it, too. I don't know where they are, but...but at least one of them has lost consciousness already.'

'Where are you now?' Konori-sempai was typing something; Kazari could hear the rapid click of computer keys on the other end of the phone. 'Is anyone else with you?'

'I'm in Saten-san's room. And I'm on my own: she called me a little while ago and told me what had happened, and I ran right over, but -- '

'Stay with her, Uiharu-san.' Konori-sempai was still typing, fast and urgent. Kazari could picture the computer screen, the incident response form being filled in with information, strings of characters and numbers that seemed a world away from the unresponsive body at her side. 'I'm alerting the Mizuho Medical Institute. They'll send an ambulance to her dorm right away.'

'I p-put her in the recovery position,' Kazari said. A sudden spike of panic shot up through her chest, and she added anxiously, 'That was right, wasn't it? That's the right procedure?'

'Yes, that was right,' Konori-sempai said. 'Until the ambulance gets there, can you take her pulse and check how fast she's breathing? They might want to know that information.'

'R-Right. Pulse and breathing. I'll check.' Tentatively, Kazari put a hand to Saten-san's neck, resting two fingers against the side of the throat to find the steady rhythm of a heartbeat. She counted silently, all the while keeping an eye on the rise and fall of Saten-san's chest. 'Pulse is...about 65, and breathing is...is maybe 20?' She pulled her hand away, almost afraid that she would hurt Saten-san further by touching her any more than she had to. 'They're steady, but slow. What else should I do?'

'Just stay on the phone with me.' The noise of typing had stopped, and Konori-sempai's voice was quieter, and less brusque. 'The ambulance is on its way -- I gave them Saten-san's address from the school records. It'll be there in about five minutes.'

Some of the knots in Kazari's stomach loosened. Help was coming, and the relief made her feel weak and watery inside. But she couldn't let herself relax just yet. 'Can you let Shirai-san know?' she asked. 'And Misaka-san? They were wondering about her, too.'

'I just sent Shirai-san a text on my own phone,' Konori-sempai said. 'When she calls me back, I'll tell her to meet you at the hospital. Once she gets there, have her teleport with you back here, and -- '

'No!' Kazari exclaimed, without thinking. Before Konori-sempai could reply, she continued, 'I mean, I can't come back to the branch office. I have to...I need to go to the AIM Research Center.'

'What do you need from them?'

'There's an Ability Development researcher who's been working on the Level Upper cases. I want to get the results of the data analysis she was running.' She'd been on her way there when Saten-san called. Now, more than ever, she needed those results.

'There's no need for you to do that yourself. I'll call them from here, and once you and Shirai-san are back at the office -- '

'But I have to!' Once again, her emotions had got the better of her, but this time Kazari didn't care if she was being rude by interrupting. 'I...I promised Saten-san that I'd wake her up. I promised her....' Her breath hitched again. 'Please, Konori-sempai.'

There was silence on the other end of the line. Now that her outburst was over, Kazari braced herself for the reprimand that she was certain would follow. She was breaking Judgment protocols, defying her orders, not to mention yelling at a superior officer....

Finally, Konori-sempai spoke, and to Kazari's surprise she didn't sound upset. 'All right, report back to me when you're done. I'll alert the other branch supervisors and let them know what's happened. We need all the leads we can get on this case.'

'Yes, ma'am,' Kazari said, nodding eagerly, even though Konori-sempai couldn't see her. 'I'll report back as soon as I can.'

'Good. I'll be waiting. Oh, and Uiharu-san?'

Kazari sat up a little straighter. 'Yes, ma'am?'

'You're a good friend. And you're doing a good job. Keep it up.'

Kazari's cheeks tingled as a blush started to creep across her face. Konori-sempai wasn't one to hand out compliments lightly, and it was the last thing that Kazari had expected to hear, after so many things had gone wrong already. 'Th-thank you, Konori-sempai,' she managed to say, and would probably have started to stammer an apology for being so insubordinate earlier if she hadn't heard the faint wail of a siren, growing louder with each rise and fall. 'Oh, the ambulance is here!'

'I can hear it. I'll be monitoring things from the office. Call me again when Saten-san's been admitted, and I'll let you know if anyone has further information that might help.'

'Yes, ma'am. Thank you.' Kazari waited until she heard the click of the receiver on the other end, and let her own phone snap shut. She let out a slow breath, and turned to look at her best friend.

'Don't worry, Saten-san,' she said softly, with a smile that almost didn't waver at all. 'If anyone can help you, Kiyama-sensei can. So you just take it easy, okay? I'll help you wake right up in no time -- leave everything to me.'

The noise of the siren had stopped, and Kazari could hear the clatter of feet on the apartment block stairs. There was only one thing she still had to do. She dropped her phone back into her bag, and took out her green-and-white-striped armband. Just as she finished pinning it into place on her sleeve, a long shadow darkened the open doorway. As she got to her feet and turned around, she saw a man step into the entryway, pulling a wheeled stretcher behind him.

'Hello?' The man blinked several times, his eyes clearly straining to make the transition from the bright summer sunlight to the darkness of the room. 'Judgment reported an unconscious person here.'

Kazari got to her feet. 'I made the report,' she said firmly, and presented her armband for the ambulance attendant to see. 'Uihari Kazari. I'm with Judgment.' She stepped to one side, clearing a path for the stretcher, and gestured to the motionless body of the Level Upper's latest victim. 'Let's bring her in.'

Notes

The phone conversation between Uiharu and Saten in this episode had me wiping away tears while I was watching it, and I felt like it cut away from the two of them so quickly when Uiharu finally made it to her friend's side. So I decided that it would be a good idea to flesh it out a bit, and show that even if Uiharu prefers to exercise her skills in front of a computer screen, her Judgment training is still just as sound as anyone else's. Thanks to [personal profile] genarti for the prompt!


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