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    Tower Drill
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Page Two

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From: Patti or Jeff or Cassidy <theaterhost@voyagerliveaction.com>
Date: Sun Aug 13, 2006 7:56 pm
Subject: The Negative Influence


Roy said the only thing he could under the circumstances and
the chief's smiling gaze. "Welcome to Station 51....again." he
said quietly, holding out his hand.

Ed tempered his gleeful enthusiasm and took the paramedic's
handshake. "I promise I won't screw up so much this time. A fire
engine's not like a person at all.... She can't be arm crippled,
nor...misdiagnosed, now can she?" he grinned slightly, implicating
everything. There was a slight smolder of old affront filling his eyes
when he finally caught Gage's wary ones.

Johnny glanced over at Cap chatting the chief up. Both men had
their backs turned away from the inspection line while they caught
up on old times.  Made of iron, Johnny refused to take Ed's
thrust out, hose calloused hand. "Yeah, aren't we the lucky ones."
he whispered. His tones were definitely not a question.

Kelly instantly matched Gage's expression, sliding over against
his shoulder to take his side in unspoken support.

"Thank you, boys. Dissss-missed..." Hank's voice rang out when
he realized his men hadn't broken ranks yet. "Chief, I'll get the
paperwork ready and I'll send it in by on-call courier, right after
we get the afternoon chores done."

Ed didn't move his hand. He still offered it in friendship to Johnny,
even as his other one caressed a visitor excited Henry's head
and back enthusiastically when the dog stood paws up against
his jeans panted leg looking for a few affectionate pats.

Stoker cleared his throat as he leaned over and took Ed's palm
instead, to end all of the quiet tension before it could be noticed by
Cap or the chief. "Ed, why don't I show you where you can change
into uniform so you can finish out the rest of the shift with us."

"My stuff's not here yet from the station house. My girlfriend was
gonna go get my things and bring em over to me sometime tonight."
Marlowe told him.

Mike shrugged. "You can borrow one of mine. We're about the
same size I think."

Ed Marlowe went mild then.., the emotional guard that was never entirely
up, fizzling away. "Thank you, Mr. Stoker. I really appreciate your station's
warming hospitality.." said Ed, smoothly pushing past Johnny and an
equally troubled Roy. For the first time, they all watched as the falsely bright
smile disappeared off Marlowe's face.

They all caught the moment when his clean cut mouth fell into a second,
eerily dangerous kind of steel.

They saw Ed throw the unfinished half eaten sandwich of his noisily into
the garbage bin next to the door, where Henry couldn't reach it.

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Chief Jim Page left soon after making his reacquaintance with
the rest of Hank Stanley's crew. It was apparent that Cap would
have very little choice in the matter about taking Marlowe on again
in what the chief mistakenly thought was just another kind of
trainee routine for the over confident, visiting fireman.

Ed wasn't gone into the locker room a minute before Gage cornered
Cap in his office. "Why weren't we notified in advance that he was
coming? Cap, don't you know how this is gonna effect the rest of us?"

Hank didn't stand up to face the pissed off paramedic. He didn't need to.
His voice was enough of a slap. "Is there a problem, Gage? If so, you'd
better have all the facts before coming to me about him officially or unofficially.
Let me remind you that Marlowe is still fully fire qualified. His captain says
he's doing very good work according to this dossier; even good enough to earn a
commendation or two."  he said, holding up the state employee packet from
HQ that Page had given him. "And until I see Ed performing otherwise with my
own eyes, doing something contrary to departmental policy, I don't want you to
step a single inch inside my office to harp about it. Is that clear?" Hank said
firmly.

Surprised, Johnny drew himself up tall, at sudden attention. It looked
horrible to Hank to see that with Gage still in his slightly crooked black
inspection hat. "Yes, sir. As clear as crystal. Permission to go, sir."Johnny
asked quietly formal with no rock hardness in his face at all past the new bright
beam of hurt. ::In all my years, Cap has never denied me speaking my mind
about anything.:: Gage thought privately, in shock.

Hank sighed hugely. "My ...my hands are tied on this, Johnny. I'm sorry.
We....have to keep neutral about what we already know about the man. True,
we were his testing paramedic preceptor station back then. But we have to
treat this as if he's gonna be going right on through for the first time. It's
an entirely different ability we're being asked to foster and examine here.
And to tell you the truth, the pressure's entirely off you and Roy now. You
two aren't fire engineers."

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Still not locking eyes with his captain, and studying the wall where it met the
tiled ceiling, Johnny said one more thing. "Do you think that's any comfort to
Mike Stoker, Cap? He was there when Marlowe risked those patients' lives
right along side of us. What makes you think that Marlowe's gonna act any
differently when we're all *ss deep in a fire somewhere with him controlling
things at the other end of our hoselines? Hate to break it to ya, Cap. But when
those moments finally arrive, think about it. Those lives Marlowe's attitude
targets next, are gonna be ours when he second guesses something stupid
trying to get around Mike Stoker like he tried to get around me and Roy back
then. Just how are you gonna feel about it when that grossly wrong moral
character flaw of his rears up again, sir?"

Without waiting for word, Gage melted away into the shadows and was gone.

Hank sat still as Johnny's last words rang in his head like a bad alarm call.

Cap didn't pursue him to check his insuboordination at the root. For that root
was now growing inside of himself mentally, through a tiny voice of conscience,
whether he liked it, or not. The first kernels of doubt began to suffuse his thoughts.
"We'll all be safe enough on scene and later at the Tower. Won't we?" he
asked softly to himself.

Hank Stanley was not comforted by his thoughts and an invading migraine
headache began to pound in his head soon afterwards. ::This is gonna be a very
long week, I'm afraid.:: concluded his mind silently.

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Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2006 14:10:51 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Roxy Dee" <laterrapincabesa@yahoo.com>    
Subject: Drill Tower Assignment Day~~

Johnny groaned as his clock radio went off yet again. ::Oh, man.
Why did I ever join the fire department?:: he wondered as he rolled
over onto his back and pulled the covers down around his ankles to
finally get it over with.

The chill air of his bedroom clinched things fully for him in a solid
dose of reality. ::These cadets of Page's today'd better be fast
learners. Or else.:: he commiserated. :: I'm a fireman, not a drill
sergeant. I don't plan on spending any more time at the academy,
holding their hands, any more than I actually have to.:: he grumbled
in his head.

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Twenty minutes later, Gage had left the warm sanctuary of his sheets
for the foggy, early morning grounds of Long Beach's infamous Tower
Fire Academy. His assignment that day, was to show the latest class of
cadets of the summer, all about the small tools and the finer survival
arts of his department's self contained breathing apparatus gear, including
exposing the recruits to the realities of raw fire smoke, unprotected.
::Now that's gonna be fun.:: he thought sarcastically. ::There's nothing like
making sure cadets don't choke to death on ya when you're busy trying
to prove a valuable point.::

Johnny felt very fortunate. It was Hank and Roy who had received the sucker
end of the chief's mandatory instructor orders. They got the "honor" of
conducting recruits through the cracked concrete maze of the much feared
ten story drill tower. True, they would have the luxury of air bottles
while the tackboard panels all around them were intentionally
ignited one by one via remote control, but the whole exercise was designed
to demonstrate fire behavior at its worst; with a very controlled, real
seeming, but simulated, building flashover effect.

Needless to say, the drill cowed most cadets into one or two of their baser
emotions, like panicking,.. inside the first five minutes, once the torching
began. And it usually took a pair of larger sized, overseeing veteran
firefighters to keep everyone, going through the live fire section, from ripping
off their air masks during the worst of the terrifying heat's crawling.

Gage chuckled. ::At least, I got the lighter duty. Anyone who fails in my
drill gets a fast shoulder carry outside to a guy waiting with a demand
valve resuscitator... Heh. ::

Ed Marlowe was already deep into his part of things, driving the aerial
ladder truck around the designated cones laid out in a frame, about the
tower. He was training there for his engineer's test, in case a rescue
was called by Cap or Roy for a recruit actively going ape.

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::Please knock down a cone. Please.. Please..:: Johnny begged in a
twisted sense of dark humor. But Marlowe remained annoyingly on
track, clearing the narrow fourteen inch margins between them
flawlessly. ::D*mn it, Mike. Quit being such a good teacher!:: the
paramedic qualmed. Then he laughed at himself for his willful act of ill
wishing at the station's current thorn-in-the-side. ::Why am I stooping to
Ed's level? That's dumb.:: he chided himself privately.

Soon, the first of the recruits listed on his chart fell in at his table
under the red and white striped and shaded roof canopy tent.

When he felt that a fair number of them had gathered, Johnny looked
up. "Hi... Here for the smoke and tools session?" he asked brightly,
finally putting all thoughts of Ed Marlowe firmly out of his mind.

Numerous nervous heads nodded.

Johnny smiled.::Their turnouts are so new, I can smell the rubber
and retardant spray, from here.:: "Ok, let's get the show on the road.
Now everybody take a book, a helmet that fits properly from over
there, and then have a seat in one of these folding chairs. I've  
got a few preliminary health interview answers to get from each of you."
he told them cheerfully. :: Huh... Glad I'm a paramedic and can conduct
medical histories in my sleep. I'll worry about Ed later, when the live
burn Tower drill finally starts.:: groused Gage mentally.

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From: Patti or Jeff or Cassidy <theaterhost@voyagerliveaction.com>
Date: Sun Aug 20, 2006 3:53 pm
Subject: The Doubting Thomas..

Roy DeSoto was busy on the tarmac located across from the training
tower's large lot. He had just acclimated his candidates to their scba gear,
after sharing with them what the Tower would feel like once it was
ignited around them. Surprisingly, he learned from the recruits,
that the Tower wasn't their worst fear. It was actually the final testing
details they needed to pass in order to become full fledged graduated
firefighters that was really bothering them.

Smiling, Roy set a foot onto a chair's hinged base and bent over, casually
crossing his arms as he relayed details. "The test consists of two timed
sections. On the final test day, each candidate will be required to wear the
following: a polo shirt, long pants, sweat pants, or exercise pants, but no shorts.
Also, no shoes with open toes or heels. You'll be given a twenty pound
weight vest, a turnout coat, a helmet with chin strap, gloves, and your previously
fitted training scba to put on for the duration of the test. Watches and loose
or restrictive jewelry are not permitted. You will be asked to leave those in your
car.

"Candidates, while wearing the required gear, you will carry a 150 ft. high-rise hose
bundle up a stairwell to the tenth floor of this Tower, read the pressure gauge
located on the top landing, then return to your starting point. All candidates
will then lower a hose bundle to the ground floor from the outside top most
balcony using a hundred foot rope. Minimums for the stairs section: The
time for your first-step-up to the last-step-off will be completed in under four
minutes or less. Anything over four minutes is an automatic fail. The test is over.

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"After completing the stairs test, the candidate will then assemble
and disassemble a set of fittings chosen at random from the test engine waiting
nearby on stand alert. Also, you may be tested on the following parameters:  

"The candidate, while wearing all his required gear, will perform the following
events, not necessarily in this order:

"Pull a charged 2- inch hose fifty feet, then discharge a full stream for thirty
seconds at 100 PSI. Failure to drag the hose to the required distance results
in an automatic fail. The test is over.

"Drag or carry an 180 lb. dummy seventy five feet. Failure to drag the dummy the
whole distance is a fail, the test is over.

"Remove two randomly called for appliances from the engine apparatus and carry
them both seventy five feet before setting them both down. Then you'll be asked
to pick both appliances up again to carry everything back to the engine for
restowing into their original compartments.

"Walk the extension ladder up this building using the hand over hand method,
where you'll be asked to move to a nearby second secured ladder. Climb that
second ladder to gain access to the immediate roof level. Your next move will be
to rope, and then pull, a donut hose roll up ten stories to the roof where you are,
in order to place the donut roll at your feet. Then you'll be asked to relower
that same hose bundle back down to the ground.

"Using a Kaiser forcible entry simulator, you'll be asked to drive a 160 lb. beam
back a distance of six feet using an eight pound maul tool. Failure to drive the
beam the required distance in a suitable amount of time is a fail. The test is over.

"Ride in a bucket aerial to a height of one hundred fourteen feet and remain there
for two minutes. If candidate says stop at any time in order to return to ground, it will
be considered an automatic failure. The test is over...." Roy concluded.
"And that's it. That's all there is to it. Are there any further questions about
the final physical firefighter's exam?" he grinned.

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None dared raise their hands.

"These physical tests are nothing compared to what you've probably already
subjected yourselves to while working out before even coming here to the Academy.
It'll be no sweat fellas. Really."

Finally one burly recruit inclined his head. "Have there been any female candidates
admitted to the academy this year?"

Roy raised his eyebrows, completely surprised by the question. "Not yet. Although
I have every confidence that there will be before the year's out because of the
new employment equality stipulations that have been recently ratified by
Fire Department Battalion Chief, James Page. It only makes sense that our female
paramedics now undergoing medical training can enjoy the same opportunities to
learn to fight fires along with the rest of us, wouldn't you agree?"

A voice from the back of the group spoke up. "I'd say that wouldn't be a very smart
idea at all.." the masculine tone chided quietly. "The rest of us won't be able to ignore
feeling like we'd have to watch out for all of them on the job. I for one, wouldn't like to
have my life depending on a known to be physically weaker member."

Roy stood up, still keeping the cordial smile on his face as he shielded his eyes
from the sun in order to see the one talking. Then he recognized who had spoken.
"Mr. Marlowe." he acknowledged. "No one not physically able to pass the firefighter's
test will ever be allowed to work in a county fire station so your concerns are
unfounded to say the least. It might interest you to know that preliminary female fire
fighter candidate testing has shown that women have significantly better stamina
in the heat than men do. They also have better agility at greater speeds
through tight quarters, too. Even fully laden."

"I didn't know that, sir." Marlowe buzzed with doubt. "But I'll have to see those kinds
of performance results with my own eyes before I'll reserve any judgement if
you don't mind my saying so." said Ed, leaning against the idling fire engine at
the back of the group.

"You're entitled to your own opinion, engineer candidate." Roy said to Ed intentionally
to reinforce his instructor's role relationship to the visiting fireman.

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Then he turned to the rest of his group. "Now... are we ready for the live fire drill?"

The recruit group fidgetted nervously, but all nodded yes.

"Then let's get the show on the road.." smiled Roy, reaching for his scba bottle.
"Everybody, get into your bottles and report to the lieutenant at the back of
the group for a thorough equipment check."

Behind him, Ed Marlowe tightened his helmet strap thoughtfully as he studied
the fair haired paramedic. He never felt Mike Stoker's encouraging shoulder
grip, telling him to get behind the engine wheel for the return trip back to the Tower
to be the group's rescue resource back up.

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From: Patti or Jeff or Cassidy <theaterhost@voyagerliveaction.com>
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2006 15:03:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: The Purifying Fire..

Gage helped the last recruit out of the smokehouse. "Now
that wasn't so bad, Miller, now was it?" he said to the last red
eyed, mucous draining, spittle smeared, panting cadet to come
stumbling out of the test compartment. "Here, take a seat by
me. You're a little bit more distressed than the others. We're
just gonna get you to grab a snort or two off the D.V. before
you get re-examined. Don't worry, nothing's wrong. I'm just
covering my instructor butt like any good paramedic who
finds himself in a teaching mode would."

The cadet gratefully accepted Johnny's helping arm as they got
over to the first aid station that had been set up so cadet
vitals signs could be checked at need for abnormal reactions
over the course of the whole training day. "Bu--*choke*..but,
did I-?" the young zit faced recruit gasped.

"Yeah, you passed. Drooling like a baby teething and coughing
like a ninety year old COPD-er's completely allowable at this
stage of the game. Failing this station constitutes blacking out within
the first two minutes. You were exposed for three and stayed alert the
whole time. But,..we held ya in there a little bit longer for a reason.
Now do you see the merit of knowing how to hook up your air bottle
and its regulator's connections with your eyes closed in complete
and total darkness?"

The violently hacking cadet nodded eagerly. "Y-yes, sir. *cough* !"

"Good. Now suck this in nice and easy while I listen to ya clean out
your lungs." said Johnny, opening the cadet's shirt and donning a
stethoscope. "If ya gotta puke, let me know. I got a garbage can right
here." Johnny told the flushed teenager as he firmly pressed a spare
resuscitator's mask against the young man's face. The man jerked,
still on high adrenaline. Gage instantly reassured him. "This is on pull
only, ok? It won't bite ya. So just relax. The test's over. You did a good
job in there. I'm proud of ya." Gage praised, patting the trembling man's
arm.  With his other hand, he waved Chet over to his side after he had
finished thoroughly checking out a set of breath sounds. He rose
to his feet in a pretend grab for a spare oxygen tank from the table
behind him.

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Speaking low, he leaned into Kelly's ear. "Once Miller calms down, walk
him over to the first aid station's canteen and get him to drink a lot of water.
It's a distraction. I want him to not see me going through his duffle bag."

"Uh, oh. Think another one's hiding an inhaler and a history?" asked
Chet.

"Unfortunately, yeah. I can smell Albuterol on his breath."

"Too bad he doesn't know he's gonna be rejected from the Academy
not for being an asthmatic, but for denying that he was one on his
application form in the first place." Kelly murmured.

"Some day, they'll learn." Gage sighed sadly.

"Are you the one who's gonna be the one to break it to him?"

"Nooo... Geesh, Chet. Do I look like I'm wearing a white helmet here?
That's administrator's sh*t duty. I'm just a probie barker with bandaids."

"Nice bullwhip, too." Kelly said, eyeing up the defibrillator that Johnny
had on stand by underneath the chair. "You put that where they'd notice
it intentionally, didn't you?"

"Of course. Had to reassure them somehow that every precaution's being
taken while we torture them into becoming prime fire fighting material.." Johnny
quipped with a lop sided smile. "That's the only way I know how, at least,
being a paramedic and all." he chuckled.

"It worked. Those guys were all ears and concentrating so hard, they
never even heard the whoopie cushion I snuck underneath the chief's
chair pad."

"You did what?!" Gage gaped incredulously. "You didn't.."    

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"He didn't know it was me... No one but A-shift knows who the Phantom is.
Aren't I sneaky?"

"Hate to be you when you get caught. Page's got a lot of fans who'll be
happy to pound you into hamburger for doing that kind of teasing to him."

"The chief doesn't mind." Chet sighed. Then he shrugged, reconsidering.
"...Most likely. He probably just laughed, thinking that my idea was a good
way to blow off some cadet nervousness by lightening things up a little."
Chet shared. "Want him on an EKG?" asked Kelly, studying the recovering
Miller.

"Nah, his rate's already going down." Gage sniffed, watching the bounding
pulse point in the tired recruit's neck from where they were. "You know,
you're making a pretty good EMT here. Perhaps you should get your
rear into the next paramedic class and see what you can really d--"

"No way.. I saw how you two monkeys drilled Ed Marlowe to death in between
calls this spring." Chet complained sarcastically.

"That was only because he was making too many dangerous choices, Chet."

"Oh, and I wouldn't?" Kelly asked him seriously. "Don't you remember? I'm
the one who took five whole hours to pick up even the most basic CPR skills
good enough to pass the test."

"Maybe.." Gage squinted in mock appraisal. "But now, you're the best child
resuscitator our station's ever seen. You got the highest pre-defibrillator
viability ratio of all of us put together. I know. I've been keeping track of
how many are actually saved after you've had a chance to work 'em."

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"That's just because I hate kids dying right in front of me all the time." Chet
grinned. "I just want them to make it, that's all. Nothing spectacular."

"Yeah, well. You just let us go right on admiring your miraculous skills for ya,
ok? Just knowing what you're capable of past the joking department
makes us all smile real big whenever we find we're down about going to
another child arrest call." Gage told him warmly with seriousness.

"I'm a fireman, not an icon. And don't you forget that, you hear?" Kelly said
in embarrassment, turning gruff in self defense as he made a hasty departure
back over to Miller's chair in order to follow Johnny's orders.

Gage watched him go with mild affection. Then his thoughts turned to other
angles. ::Huh. I wonder how Roy's making out..:: he thought to himself as
he turned his eyes up to the training tower.

It was just beginning to smoke at the very top story as the live fire drill
exercise began in earnest.

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