As Sam came to a panting stop, a jet of orange flame burst from a high window.Several dozen kids were standing, watching. A crowd that struck Sam as very strange, until he realized why it was strange: there were no adults, just kids.“Is anyone in there?” Astrid called out. No one answered.“It could spread,” Sam said.“There’s no 911,” someone pointed out.“If it spreads, it could burn down half the town.”“You see a fireman anywhere?” A helpless shrug.The day care shared a wall with the hardware store, and both were only a narrow alley away from the burning building. Sam figured they had time to get the kids out of the day care if they acted fast, but the hardware store was something they could not afford to lose.There had to be forty kids just standing there gawking. No one seemed about to start doing anything.“Great,” Sam said. He grabbed two kids he sort of knew. “You guys, go to the day care. Tell them to get the littles out of there.”The kids stared at him without moving.“Now. Go. Do it!” he said, and they took off running.Sam pointed at two other kids. “You and you. Go into the hardware store, get the longest hose you can find. Get a spray nozzle, too. I think there’s a spigot in that alley. Start spraying water on the side of the hardware store and up on the roof.”These two also stared blankly. “Dudes: Not tomorrow. Now. Now. Go! Quinn? You better go with them. We want to wet down the hardware—that’s where the wind will take the fire next.”Quinn hesitated.People were not getting this. How could they not see that they had to do something, not just stand around?Sam pushed to the front of the crowd and in a loud voice said, “Hey, listen up, this isn’t the Disney Channel. We can’t just watch this happen. There are no adults. There’s no fire department. We are the fire department.”Edilio was there. He said, “Sam’s right. What do you need, Sam? I’m with you.”“Okay. Quinn? The hoses from the hardware store. Edilio? Let’s get the big hoses from the fire station, hook ’em up to the hydrant.”“They’ll be heavy. I’ll need some strong guys.”“You, you, you, you.” Sam grabbed each person’s shoulder, shaking each one, pushing them into motion. “Come on. You. You. Let’s go!

~ Michael Grant