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   The Fire Within
   Movie One
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               Page Three

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From:  patti k (  
Sent: Fri 12/26/08 4:38 AM
Subject: Pep Talk

Cap was dozing in a camp chair, with the glowing heat
of the fire warming his face, when a heavy thunk of a tarp
wrapped deer quarter dropped on the ground in front of
him. He started, jerking out of somnolence. "What was
that?" he mumbled sleepily, drowsy from the fresh air.

"Dinner." Johnny grinned. "And for many nights to come, too."

Roy DeSoto began chuckling. "That was fast." he said,
looking at his watch.

Kelly was lifting up his winter jacket so the intense
radiant heat of the fire could soak into his bones. He sighed
with utter relief and blew on his hands to warm them."Not fast
enough for me." he groused.  "Oh, this feels good. Never
thought I'd see the day where I actually wanted to see a fire."

Mike Stoker laughed from where he was checking out
the size of the buck quarters in the packs Kelly and Cap
had taken off with appreciative hands. "You're forgetting
your boyhood days again."

"Who wouldn't?" Chet countered, straight faced.

"Me." said Johnny, grinning from ear to ear. "I kind of like
remembering old times. And it just gets better when you're
grown up because you can see those things all over again
from a new perspective. You can marvel at what you've learned
well since then." he said, thinking back on that fateful first deer hunt.

"Not so fun grown up either." Kelly said. "I thought I had things
nailed down." he said, talking about his deer hunt he hadn't completed
well with a cowed chagrin. His eyes avoided the required deer tag
tied around the buck's ear with his name on it, where the front
quarters and head lay on the grass at their feet. The whitetail's
eyes were still open, wide with surprise.

Johnny noticed, and covered the buck's head.
"You did fine. The deer's not worried about anything anymore,
so get over it. We had to eat." Gage told him matter of factly.

Marco was already sawing away on a haunch, slicing off
six steaks to grill on the fire. "Ooo, venison! Do you know how long
I've dreamed of getting some fresh?"

"About as long as I have." Chet said, eyeing up the meat sadly. "I
don't think I want to have any for the rest of our breakfast today." he sighed.

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Roy eyed up Kelly. "Aw, come on. It wasn't that bad."

"Yes it was. And it wasn't pretty." Kelly frowned.

Cap turned to Gage."What happened?"

Johnny held up a dismissing hand. "A shallow arrow. But we
took care of it as fast as possible."

"Oooo." Hank winced in sympathy.

Chet cringed and rubbed his face again, turning back to
the fire away from them.

Johnny looked up.
"It wasn't long. Maybe,.. five minutes or so that way." he thought
back. "Then we dropped him. He was a dead buck standing when
I got to him." Johnny shared. "Chalk it up as one for experience."
Gage said, looking at Chet gently. "Chet, if it's any comfort, my first
buck was alone for hours and died even worse because we couldn't
find his blood sign on the ground. He had fled too fast."

Kelly blinked as he turned back to the others after wiping his face with
a damp towel. "Where'd you get him?"

It was Gage's turn to look uncomfortable."Gut shot, near the brisket.
In a non-vitals spot. And my shaman guide didn't get to finish the job
before he died. I felt bad for a week. There was no way I was going to
eat something then that I had tortured."

"Unintentionally." Roy countered.

A silence reigned where only the fire talked.

But then Lopez filled the air with confidence.
"Enough downer talk guys, aren't we all hungry?" Marco butted in, eagerly
spicing up and laying ample venison onto his grill laid over the fire. "So let's
show some appreciation for this deer's sacrifice and dive in with gusto.
My mama says that that's the best way to show your food the honor it
deserves for giving up its life to you."

"Here. Here." said Mike Stoker whistling appreciatively. But then he frowned.
"Hey, where the rack?" the fire engineer asked, still picking through the tarp
and rope covered meat bundles in a search for it. "It's sure gonna look good
hanging up in Cap's den.." he grinned.

Chet looked up. "Uh, Stoker. We left it back in the woods. Because I..
uh.." he broke off.

Cap touched Chet on the shoulder. "And a nice tribute, too. Now the mice
can get the minerals they're gonna need by gnawing on them all winter long."

"Dust to dust." Marco agreed.

"Salt to the earth.." Gage shared, too. "Aw, come on, Chet. Let's have a feast.
There's nothing better. And I know that now." he said, gesturing at the fragrant,
mouthwatering steaks beginning to pop on the grill as Marco turned them over
and over until they were deep brown and savory. "It'd be a shame if we had to
waste meat. The five of us can't eat all of it by ourselves. Our freezers aren't
big enough."

"Well.." said Kelly, thinking about it reluctantly. Then the perfumey smell of heady
tender filet mignon made up Chet's mind. "Okay, since you put it that way."

Lopez chuckled. "I'll give you both ribeyes. How's that? They'll be done in
a few minutes." he said, wiping nonexistent dirt off of his hands on the apron
he had donned.

Kelly joined him and crouched by the fire to pick up a spatula.
"I'll help you cook." he said, his mouth finally watering.

Gage clapped his hands together now that they were warm."I'll go find us some
fresh sage. Back in a minute." he said. Then he jogged out into the frosty meadow
outside of camp, to find some.

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Sent: Sun 12/28/08 5:39 AM
From: "Patti K"
Subject: The Dark Side Of Nature

After their gourmet gorge, the gang decided to
take a collective nap before heading into town to refrigerate
their whitetail catch at the butcher's for the rest of the week.

They had no idea how long they had been asleep when
an unearthly deafening yowl sounded right next to their sleeping

Johnny was up like a shot and he gave out a tremendous blood
curdling yell and smacked the tent wall hard with two fists. "Yiii !
Get out of here! Yii ahhhhhhHHH  Ho!! " he shouted angrily.

A crashing recoil of something large bounded backwards with
another screeching, raspy wail that turned into an angry spate of  

The rest of 51's shot bolt upright.

"Is that a bear?!" Chet peeped fearfully, the first to regain a voice
as he struggled to get out of his tangled sleeping bag. He finally
kicked it aside in a partial panic and sank down into a protective

Johnny grabbed his bow that he had brought inside to protect
its bead and leatherwork from forming ice. "No. Too small. Geez, that
sounded like a puma. Everybody, stay inside and stay quiet! I'm gonna
see if it's really chased off." he ordered, snatching his quiver up and
putting it on over his shoulder. Another hand made sure an axe handle
was threaded through a belt loop in back of his pants.

He crawled over Roy in his sleeping bag, facing the wide
open entrance to their tent, warily.

"Need any help?" DeSoto offered weakily, scared.

Gage was firm.
"Nope. The rest of you are out of your element. Only I
can handle a stalking cougar. I know how it'll react and how
to fight one." Seconds later, he had slipped outside into the
cold sunlight. His eyes started immediately searching
the tree canopy above them as he readied an arrow to his bowstring.

But nothing leaped down on him in a fury of fur, teeth and claws.

Gentle orange leaves whispered in mockery at him with rustling

Johnny scanned the area around them once again, tensely.

But the challenge did not repeat itself from a hungry throat.

Satisfied some distance had been won, Johnny retied the tent
flaps shut with nimble fingers behind him.

Soon, the gang heard a load of wood being dumped onto the
feeble smelling campfire to build it up swiftly to bonfire proportions.

"What didn't we do? What did we do wrong?!" Chet panicked,
picking up a backpack rack to heft as a shield and club.

Marco hefted up a familar feeling knife and waited by the
tent flap through which Johnny had disappeared. Lopez was still in shock
from the close encounter. "There are ..*gulp* ...pumas in New York?"

"After that?!" Chet gestured sarcastically at the tent wall.
"It certainly wasn't an educational recording for our benefit, pally."

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Stoker added more. "Those park rangers probably thought there weren't
any left. Or we would have been notified of potential sightings near our camp."

"Nobody's perfect." said Roy.

Belated Marco sputtered.
"The deer! Oh Madre Di-- It's got to be after the meat!" Lopez
said, curling his goose pimpled palms around his elbows.

Chet was angry and puzzled at the same time.
"I didn't think we needed to tree hang anything this time of year.
Bears are hibernating now according to this book." said Kelly,
waving a tattered, well dog-eared manual in the air in between them.

"Just how old is that book?" Stoker wanted to know.

DeSoto leaned forward, slowly.
"Uh,... 19--" he squinted myopically at it through the dirt on its cover.
"--65." Roy whispered.

"Oh, brilliant." snarled Kelly. "Who brought this one?"

Nobody admitted to it.

Mike said. "That's probably outdated animal information."  

Chet ignored the analyses wholeheartedly. "No sh*t, Sherlock.
We wanted a wilderness vacation? Well, we got it. This is another
eye opening side of nature, guys. At its best." he murmured, his voice
a mix of fright and frustration. "We're the top of the food chain under
seige by something else that thinks IT is."

Hank immediately shushed everybody, listening for further sounds
outside.  The gang froze for a full half minute, fighting to control their
ragged breathing. "Johnny? Are you all right?" Stanley asked, reaching
for the ranger radio he was wearing to start a call for help.

But just the wind and more silence reigned as Johnny played cat to another
hidden cat.

Then Gage reassured his crewmates. "I'm only being like a mouse to track him.
His prints are all over the place, but our deer meat hasn't been mauled yet.
There are no claw marks on any of the tarps." he whispered to them. "So
far so good."

The others finally saw Johnny's shadow and the outline of weapons on
the tent wall silhouetted by the sun, guarding them.

"How about all of us making a break for the rover?" Chet asked.

"Stay put. If we try to run, it'll give chase right after us, if it's still nearby."
Johnny replied.

"Shall we call in?" Hank asked him.

Gage didn't hesitate.
"Yes. Cougars usually don't hunt during the day. There's something wrong
with this one if it's scavenging deer camps like this in broad daylight."

Stanley sighed. "Too bad we didn't think to bring a gun for protection."
he murmured thoughtfully.

"We're not that kind of hunter." DeSoto told him.

"Let's better hope we're not its kind of prey.." Stanley glared right back at him.

"...just t-terrific..." Chet whimpered, moving away from the thin canvas wall.

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Subject: Yin and Yang
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Mon 12/29/08 2:33 AM

Johnny Gage crept around the corner of the tent, cursing the
angled setting sunlight now blinding him in half of his field of vision.
::Why didn't I grab a hat when I came out here?:: he thought angrily,
scared. ::Because you wanted to see your surroundings as fast as
possible, that's why.:: his reasoning side argued instantly.

Another angry, long drawn yowl erupted in the same beech grove
as the gang just yards away. It sliced through the
noisy birdsong, silencing it as it echoed loudly around the valley's rocks.
Gage startled and almost dropped his bow. He whirled
again in place, facing every direction for only a moment as he slowly
backed up towards the growing campfire. He stopped only when the
heat of it made his hair sizzle on his jacket's collar.

"Gage?" came Hank's tense question.

"Shhh! I've got my back protected. Don't utter another peep!
You're vulnerable!" Johnny hissed at him.

Hank and the others instantly hushed.

Snapping twigs to the north popped as something not
so stealthy, circled just beyond the light of the fire under the

Then things grew quiet and another tense wait began; a bizarre
standoff between an unseen predator and the thinly sheltered

All too soon, darkness began to fall.

Johnny shifted as a cramp took his leg. Right then, a stick
snapped to his right. He uptook the axe from his belt
and headed a few feet into that direction brandishing a burning brand
and moving forward at his fullest height. "Hii Ya...! Get outta here!!"
he yelled at the top of his lungs, hoping that his human voice would
add to his deterent. "Go!!" he shouted into the black under the trees.

He was just turning when a soft plop of falling earth alerted him.

With a scream the cougar launched itself from a tall rock at Johnny.
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That was the last thing he remembered when a hard jolt knocked him
backwards into a bush from a new quarter.

Gage yelped and scrambled to his feet, raising the axe over his head, but
then he saw what had struck him in that glancing blow.

It was a mule! He watched dumbstruck as the cat turned to face its new
surprise attacker who was charging at it in pure equine fury.

With a bray of rage, the fully saddled half horse snatched the puma up
by the tail and began to shake it like a ragdoll through the air in her teeth.
Then she began to pummel it with deadly hooves and powerful jaws
to push away gripping, punishing claws.

At the top of one gory arch, a concussive shot burst through the air in a flame
of light and impacted the puma's spine just behind the skull. The cat went limp
and ceased to struggle as it fell once more beneath the angry mule's trampling

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A woman's voice announced itself. "Jodi!  Back, back, back..Good girl.
Now back.." came an order. "We got it.."

Snorting loudly and still braying in fury, the flattened eared bay mule mare
gave one last kick to the dead cougar and ansed nervously away to rejoin
a new female park ranger bearing a silver shield on her jacket's breast pocket.

A second male voice shouted from the back of a horse in the darkness.
"Morgan, any injuries?!"

"I'll check."
Pilot Deputy Park Ranger Morgan Wainwright quickly tied off Jodi the mule to
a tree near the fire and hurried over to Johnny as her partner checked the puma
with a rifle of his own to make sure the gunshot had finished its job.
"Mister, are you hurt? Did it get you at all?" asked the rugged freckled redhead.

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Gage mumbled, coming out of a daze. He began to pat himself down with his
hands weakily but then more quickly as relief set in. "Uh,.. no. I- I seem to
be in one piece here. I'm not bleeding anywhere.." he said lamely. "...I don't

"You're not." she agreed, eyeing him up critically.

Cap and the others burst out of the tent. "Johnny! What the h*ll happened
out here?"demanded Stanley. "I know help's here finally, at least."

Johnny regarded his crewmates numbly for a few seconds, but then
he began to grin as he examined the details of the expert kill shot Ranger
Wainwright had pulled off. "Cap, you're not gonna believe this...but.." Then
he broke off, dismissing any attempt at an explanation. "I don't quite believe it
myself just yet."

"Teamwork, Mr. Gage." said the man with a straight face. "She's one of
the best mounted parkies we've got. Despite having a short wicked Long
Ears there for a mount."

Morgan protested. "Hey, she's very sensitive. Call her Jodi, okay? That's
her real name, isn't it sweetie.." she smooched at the mule.

Thib just rolled his light blue eyes and ran some fingers through his neat
frosted blond hair. "Oh, sorry there, Ma'am." he tipped his ranger hat at
the brown mule who shook her namesake ears at him ruefully.

Then he offered Johnny and the others his hand in welcome, one by
one. "Hi, I'm Deputy Dwayne Thibideaux, call me Thib for short. And this is
Pilot Deputy Morgan Wainwright. The two of us, well, we're assigned to patrol
the park reserve during the hunting season for an added extra safety measure.
We came as fast as we could when we heard your captain calling in a puma pin down."

Chet Kelly pushed up his eyebrows in a still pale face. "You mean big cats
are regular in these parts?"

"Nope." said Ranger Thibideaux. "Yours was the first encounter we've
seen in twelve years." he shared.

Mike Stoker smacked the useless NY guidebook against Kelly's chest.
"That sounds about right."

"Hey, that's not mine." Chet protested, pushing it away.

"Yes, it is. Your sister signed the inside back cover and dated it." Stoker
said smoothly, not smiling.

Kelly cleared his throat subconsciously.

But the two rangers weren't listening, they were crouched with Johnny
over the luckless cougar. "Oh, wow.." said Morgan. "Just look at  
his front foot, it's been crippled."

"I see it." said Dwayne.

"And he's really underweight. " added Wainwright.

Chet nudged Johnny's ribs and whispered sotto voce. "Did she
mean that about you?" Gage just poked him back, ignoring him.

"Might have been by a car strike." guessed Thib. "This scarring's
old. And the way the hair's been scraped off here looks like badly
healed road rash."

"Okay, so we can rule out distemper or rabies." Morgan said.

"Yep." replied Dwayne.

"Lucky us." said Marco sarcastically. "No biggie. He was just going
to eat us after eating our deer."

"Unlikely." said Gage and Morgan at the same time. They both connected
eyes with each other, and grinned like a pair of witless idiots.

Morgan smiled at Johnny with interest. "You know cougars?"

"Yep." Gage grinned back, just as interested. "I treat cougar bait --er... joggers
attacked by them all the time. And, I own a ranch in California in the mountains

"...where cougars roam.." Morgan finished. "..So you battle them all the time in
order to save your livestock."

"..horses actually.." Johnny corrected dreamily.

Beside him, Chet started gagging, breaking their sudden adolescent like fugue.

Cap clapped his hands together. "So what's next? Do we have to leave
our campsite on a mandatory evacuation order or anything?"

"Nah, cougars are loners." said Thib. "And this one.." and he hefted up
the rumpled cat by the scruff of its neck "..has been dealt with. We'll take it with
us and do a necropsy to see what the old injuries really were."

"How about potential cubs?" Chet asked, thinking he was clever.

"It's a boy.." said Gage, leaning over to his ear.

"Okay, a male. How can you tell?" Kelly asked a little louder to drown him
out, glancing down at the cat's exposed rear quarters.

"By the color of its fall coat." Johnny replied. "He's still really tawny for this
time of year."

"Yeah," agreed Morgan. "Any queen would be almost totally gray by now."

"Thanks, guys. For saving our skins and all. That was a mighty rough half hour
or so there." Hank said in gratitude.

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"No sweat. But I'd ah, rope your deer up high just the same to keep off the
shrews. They're kinda thick at this particular camping site of yours." Dwayne shared.

"Oh, uh, thanks. We'll do that." said Roy beginning to take care of that chore with
a well tossed rope up into some branches.

Morgan raised her radio from her saddle pack to her mouth. "Base, this is
240 Robert. All's clear. One confirmed cougar, shot in self defense, no
injuries among the hunters."

##Copy, Appalachian Central, out.## replied their park dispatcher.

Dwayne held out his hand to Cap. "Got your tag?"

"Hmm?" Stanley grunted, not understanding.

"Your buck, we can register it now for you." Thib clarified.

"Oh, oh, oh..." Hank said. "Uh, here. My men say this one
was a ten pointer." he said, pulling off the wire from the deer's
ear near them.

"Four years old." said Gage and Morgan at the same time as
they examined the buck's tooth wear.

Chet groaned and he soon found he had to fend off their curious stares.
"Oh, nothing. Nothing." he said.

But their set of mutual smiles was starting to sicken him. A lot.


Hours later, long after dusk, a strange bright flicker awoke Kelly out
of his mentally screaming nightmares, full of claws and snarls.

The gang comforted him instantly, explaining what the multicolored
light was.

Roy chuckled. "Don't worry. It's not a brush fire, Chet. Those, way up
there in the sky, are the northern lights......"

"Far out." said Chet, watching them.

It was a long time before Kelly fell asleep, not because of fear, but
because he found himself lost in an innocently deep, complete wonder
of the blazing Aurora Borealis changing overhead.

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Subject: The Threesome..
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Tue 12/30/08 5:49 AM

Morgan Wainwright and Dwayne Thibideaux left the park stables
with their reports of the incident at Tag #70. The DNR students at
the lodge had been more than happy to conduct the necropsy on
the euthanized cougar the two deputy rangers had brought in to

Morgan chuckled. "Hey, Thib. You seemed very familiar with the
identities of those men back at that camp. You even called some of
them by name. Any reason why that is?" she prodded, smiling.

Dwayne Thibideaux ducked his head as they walked to the great lodge's
ranger headquarters which flanked the local hospital. "Oh... That... Well, I
uh,.. sort of have an interest in the part of the country where they're from.
As I've been telling Trap for months now...I.."

"...really want to move to California." Morgan concluded ruefully amused.
"Away from the cold, and the entire population of East Coasters.."

Dwayne had the dignity to wince guiltily.

"Yes, I've heard the hype about you at all of Paul Carnes' pizza
and beer parties. Tell me truthfully.." Morgan pegged. "Are we really all
that bad?" she asked.

"Well.." Thib minced. "I.. I'm a really friendly guy.. and- and.." he stuttered,
put on the spot. " I... like ...mingling with others who're the same way...uh,
mostly." he added, suddenly realizing that he was entering really hot water.
He tried to grin appeasingly at her. But it was weak. Very weak.

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But Wainwright's blank expression didn't change.
"I see." said Morgan, analyzing. "You must be pretty desperate for reminders
of paradise if you're planning on rubbing elbows with a bunch of California
firefighters and bugging them while they're trying to enjoy their well earned

Dwayne deflected eagerly, still uncomfortable. He crossed his arms self
consciously under the heaviness of Morgan's glare. He lifted his chin. "They're
not on vacation. They're just a few days early for a cross training seminar
and training exercise at the airport. Now who's the expert on Tag 70's info?"
he said with more conviction, but still wavery.

Wainwright ate his lack of self confidence and spat it right back out again.
"I just read their registration data, Sherlock. Brilliant false deduction."
she said, waving their report at Thib's youthful, and flushed face. Then
Morgan dropped her head and sighed. If she hadn't have already
been walking, she would have started tapping her foot in irritation.
"You paramedics are all alike. You stick together like glue. Even with
other paramedics like the ones we just left, whom you don't even know.
And another thing, Thib, you refuse to be open minded about the other
jobs people have on the same team while you're at it.." she complained.
"..our East Coast personality stereotype aside." she added, crossing her
arms in like fashion. "You have this innate...mistrust.. for the rest of us who
aren't medics on every med call we go on. We ARE first aid trained you

"Oh... Now, I see. You're categorizing me again." Thibideaux declared, now
affronted. "Well let me tell YOU something. That's not what I'm thinking
here. I'm thinking something else entirely.. You PILOTS are all the same."
he said, thrusting a pointing finger up in her direction.

"Huh?" Morgan gaped, her glare fading into utter disbelief and a little confusion.

Dwayne angled his jaw uncertainly in doubt for only a fraction of a second.
"Yeah..." he paused. "And I've seen you and that Ken Baxter up in the air,
buzzing the hilltops in your choppers like a pair of love sick hawks... And
let me tell you another thing.." his verbal wheeze trailed off as he
realized sickeningly, what he was actually saying for the first time.

Morgan's freckled face suddenly broke into an expression of mild amusement.
"Thib.. Are you trying to say you're jealous of Ken's attentions to me?" Morgan
asked, stopping in her tracks. Her large hand impacted Thib on the chest when he
didn't halt behind her in time. "Aww, I didn't know you had a thing for redheads.."
she cooed. Then she got sour, flipping to the other side of Morgan Wainwright's
emotional coin. "We're not blond enough.." Then she walked away swiftly, leaving
him alone and entirely confused.

A door opened on the side of the lodge and Trap Applegate, Thib's fellow paramedic
deputy partner came outside. "Hi Thib.. I heard you had an exciting evening just now."

"You don't know the half of it.." grumbled Dwayne grimly, still staring daggers at
Morgan's retreating back, and radiating confusion. ::Am I attracted to Morgan
romantically?:: he mentally asked himself. ::Holy hanna!:: he quailed. ::Where did
that come from?:: And he started to gape in shock.

Theodore Roosevelt "Trap" Applegate the Third's head shifted back and forth
from the expression on Thib's face and Morgan's distant, but still sharp body
language.  "Don't tell me, you two were ripping your hair out about the impossibly
vast differences between deputy pilots and paramedics again.."

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Thib's happy day just continued to get more confusing and odd. "That among other
things,.. um.." and he blushed. He ducked quickly so Trap couldn't see his coloring
in the darkness.

Trap elbowed his younger partner and guessed it all wrong. "Keep hugging
those palm trees. You'll get there yet." Then he dropped a bombshell. "In fact, we
all just might eventually."

That got Thib's attention. "Whaa-, huh?" he double taked.

"You heard me right." beamed Trap, bouncing on his uniform boots. "I wanted to
be the first one to tell you. Paul Carnes and Dr. Almstedt have talked with a Dr.
Kelly Brackett in the Los Angeles area..." he led on.  His grin only got bigger
when he saw the dreamy stars returning to Thib's troubled eyes. "..and he's
all for not only a sheriff's team, but ours to relocate to his area to start up a new
division with their California Highway Patrol Department."

"No kidding?" Thib drooled, his toothy grin suddenly fully rekindled.

"No kidding.. Read this.." Applegate said, handing Dwayne the letter he had just
found in his mail box's in slot.

Dwayne practically tore it away from his hand, scanning the document eagerly.
He gasped in breathless excitement. "...*squeak*.. Do you know what this means?"
Thibideaux gaped.

Trap blinked matter of factly, frank and smug. "Yeah. It means that you get to live your
dream of California beaches and California babes and I get to learn another side of
my law enforcement career." he confided happily, smacking his partner on the chest
with the folder he was carrying. "Along with learning a different kind of paramedicine."

"And we won't freeze any more." Thib squeaked again, still dumbstruck.

"That's a matter of opinion, my fine straw haired pipe dreamer. I happen to like snow."
Applegate sniffed, rubbing his feathered dark brown hair on the back of his head.
He lifted his head. "Speaking of which. Do you smell that bite on the wind?" he said,
sucking in the frigid night air through his nose. "A snowstorm's coming in off the ocean."

But Thib was oblivious, his Morgan attraction dilemma completely forgotten.
"I don't smell anything.... All I see is...."

"...sunshine......" Trap interrupted. Giggling, Trap took Thib by the shoulders to
turn him around. "Yeah, I know. Come on, let's go check the gear in the rescue
jeep before we start our next thirty six hour patrol around all the hunter tag camps."
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From:  patti k (  
Sent: Sun 1/04/09 3:47 AM
Subject: Winter Physics...

The morning was absolutely beautiful. The air was still, a perfect
setting for getting a solid homecooked breakfast ready in the great,
wild outdoors.

Birds were singing happily in the fog hanging over the valley.

The sleeping tent flap at deer camp flopped open the moment
the first light of the sun touched its smoky white canvas's surface.

But the gang arose groaning, cold, miserable.

Still cocooned in their sleeping bags, they frog hopped inside of them,
making a groggy beeline for the wood stack to bolster up the dim but still
glowing remnants of the campfire.

As one, unspoken, they each tossed logs onto the fire with
gusto, very eager to banish their violent, waking morning shivers with
high, roaring flames.

Sudden sparks billowed up wildly out of control from the impacts.
They had forgotten that colder air was richer in oxygen, providing
for longer ember life at night.

The gang was jolted awake by the urgent need to stamp
every one of them out before the sputtering sparks fully caught
in the dry grass beyond the sand pit.

The frosty dawn rang with choice thoughts on the joys of the new day.

"Ow! Man, watch where you're putting your feet!" muttered
Gage crankily as someone trod on one of his boots while trying to
extinguish a chunk of burning bark.  

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"Cork it, Gage. Just keep stomping." Hank hollered. "Quick! There's
another hot one to your left...!"

Johnny whirled, searching fast.

"No your OTHER left!!" Marco worried, blowing on his hands to warm
them as he danced in his long underwear and hiking boots to beat down
more drifting sparks landing on the ground.

Gage coughed, and winced.
"Could you all just... stay a little quieter?!  My head still hurts from that mule
kicking me." Johnny hissed, stomping fast as he cushioned his head from the
vibrations with both hands.

"She didn't kick you, Gage. She nudged you outta the way." Stoker
groused, stamping as hard as the rest of them.

Hank wasn't listening. He was analyzing. "Geez, Louise. How can a thirty
degree temperature drop make fire more resistant?"

Stoker answered confidently. "Because of density. There's 2% more
oxygen here per cubit foot than back at home. It's far colder." A spark
drifted down onto his hair and caught it on fire. "AhhHH!!" Stoker panicked,
sweeping fast hands through his hair to snuff it out.  

Marco tossed a pot full of icy drinking water on him to smother
out Mike's blaze.

Dripping, Stoker screeched. "Hey! That's-- BBbbbbbrrrrrr-rrrr..." Mike
shivered in his newly soaked clothes.

"Get changed fast." Gage recommended. "Or you're gonna--"

Mike instantly disappeared back inside his abandoned sleeping bag so
he could strip down to the skin to dry off. Roy hastily tossed
him a bundle of fresh clothes from the tent.

"That better not be my best shirt.." Chet complained, his eyes never
leaving the ground where he was stamping.

"It's not." said DeSoto. "It's mine."

"Sorry, Roy." apologized Stoker.

"No problem." Roy replied.

"Thanks a lot, pal." Stoker glared at Marco from his bag where he
was lying on the ground, wriggling.

"Any time.." Lopez said, grumpy. "Better wet than charcoal, don't you think?"

"Hey, good idea." Hank sputtered, suddenly thinking without his usual coffee.
Stanley snapped out another order. "Everybody grab our empty coffee cans
and run to the creek. We're gonna douse every single hotspot. The right way!"
he shouted.

"Before breakfast?" Kelly peeped.

"Duh..." Hank roared, pointing angrily to the stream as he thunked an
empty can into Chet's stomach.

"Ow.. watch the solar plexus." Kelly griped.

"Just go." Stanley spat.

A few water trips later, most of the burning, escaped embers were nearly out.

Then DeSoto gasped loudly. That halted everybody in their tracks. They turned
to him, all eyes. The paramedic pointed, his hand shaking with the cold.
"Is that really snow over there?!" squinted Roy in horror, gaping at an open
spot in the woods.

The group slowly took in the icy, unfamiliar sight with mixed reactions.

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Chet was the first to break out of it.  He just grinned. "Yep...." he said as he
watched Stoker now struggling to get his shirt on over his still damp hair and arms.
Kelly scratched his head thoughtfully. "Say, that gives me a terrific idea.."
The curly haired fireman jogged over to the rope tying off the tree hung
deer meat net and grabbed onto it with both hands. "I know how we can put
the rest of these sparks out  in about two seconds. Watch.."

Cap shouted, "No, don't do th--!!" But he was too late.

With a gleeful jerk on the deer net line, Kelly sent down a large avalanche
of tree trapped snow right down on top of them all in a noisy shower of
heavy clumps.

It had the effect intended. The wafting embers in the air and on the grass
were extinguished.

But so was their much hoped for flaming campfire. It disappeared in a huge
volcanic eruption of steam, utterly and irrevocably smothered by melting

The others gaped in horror at the fire pit, now drowning in an ashy lake.

"Oops.." said Chet.


Five minutes later, six sets of teeth chattered loudly as the gang
sat crunched all together in the rover's front cab section. They had the
heater on full blast at the highest setting as they sat tightly huddled under
a pile of blankets.

Cap still had snow dripping off of his head. "Okay, we're fine now.
Nothing that a little gasoline engine won't cure in a few minutes."

"Try a f-few days, Cap." Gage shivered miserably, sarcastic.

"Don't be f-funny." Stanley snapped.

"Well, HE was t-trying to b-be.." Johnny protested, pointing at Chet,
sandwiched in next to him.

"No, he w-wasn't." said Hank. "He solved our problem. I-Intelligently."

"Thank you, C-Cap." Kelly said.

Hank dipped his head graciously, dumping more soggy wet snow
onto Chet's lap.

"AhHH!" Kelly jerked, swiping the half frozen stuff off of sensitive
areas. "Watch all the r-runoff, man. That's c-cold.."

"You finally n-noticed?" said Lopez, still ticked off. The side of his
face was squashed against a breath foggy window from an elbow
crowding him in a cheek.

Cap poised a question, hugging his soggy, steaming knees to avoid
poking the others. "Think they spotted that?"  He meant
the ranger fire spotters stationed at the main lodge's watch tower.

"No. Not enough smoke. It's still too foggy in our valley."
Stoker said.

"Let's hope so." Hank said fervently.

Stoker started laughing. "How's this for g-getting close to nature, huh?
I think my butt's frozen to the seat." He chortled.

His sense of the ridiculous soon got the others just as infected
and soon they were all warm with mirth as the blower's heat finally
sank into their bones.

Two hours later, the six of them piled out of the jeep gratefully.
They were warm, dry and red faced with heat, but re-determined
to start their day again. The right way this time.

"Say, there, Chet." Hank said, taking Kelly in with a friendly arm over
a shoulder. "You wouldn't happen to have any guidebooks on winter
camping tricks, would you?"

"I do. And I promise you this one's thoroughly up to date." Kelly
told him.

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From:  patti k (  
Sent: Tue 1/06/09 1:13 PM
Subject: Like Loves Like..

Joey Collins followed Park Ranger Pilot Ken Baxter
like an eager puppy. "Are we really going to fly up high
into the sky in that..?!" the boy shouted excitedly.

He pointed to the red and white EC-145 that was running
rotors hot in the clearing before them while hanging
onto his navy cap tightly with both hands so the ground
snow blowing around them from the props wash didn't tear
it off. "...For real?"

"Yessiree." said Baxter, smiling broadly. His dimples
smiled, too, accentuating his bushy moustache and friendly eyes.
"I got a copy of your grandma's consent form right here." he said,
patting his pocket. "Captain Carnes made all the arrangements.
Which, by the way... I saw you studying that map of ours in the lodge
oh so thoroughly." he winked. "Just where do you want to go to first,
young man? We've enough fuel for a two hour flight and we'll only
diverge if something happens and one of the rangers on the ground
needs us for some kind of delivery task."

"You mean like rescues and stuff?" Joey asked, diving off a rock
and landing in a big pile of fall leaves at the edge of the landing square.

"Not always, but could be. When that happens, I want you to stay belted
right there in the co-pilot's seat with your communications helmet and
seat belt on real tight."

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"I promise." Joey told him, impatiently brushing leaf bits from his face,
hair and jacket. "Can we go up to the highest place you know of?"

"It's a go. Remember to always keep your head down
like this as we get real close in. The blades are dangerous and can
bounce in the wind even though they're turning full out. That's it. Good ducking.
Ready? If so, then hop on up. Let's get you settled in." Baxter said, opening
the glass bubble door on the side of the chopper. "Next I want you to put
this on." he said, handing Joey a mini version of a white flight helmet he
had pulled out of the chopper's cargo hold. "Here." Ken shouted, reaching
out with it to the blond haired boy.

Joey didn't take it.
"But what about my hat? This was Dad's cap. I- I don't like to take it off." Joey  
said firmly, when Ken tried handed him the all enclosing helmet with its single
radio wire port again.

"You mean you wear that cap even when you take a bubble bath?"
Ken asked him lightly, chuckling gently as he let go of the door. It shut.
The cool wind tousled his wavy brown hair around sparkling blue eyes.

"No, I don't." Collins shouted shyly.

"Well, then. I'm sure your Dad would have understood the special
occasion this is, son. You're about to go flying off in a rescue helicopter
with a real live park ranger pilot. Doesn't that amount to something?
I used to be Navy in the old days. Just served in Nam, too." he said,
tapping the brim of Joey's U.S.S. Intrepid cap affectionately. Then he
opened the curving door of the chopper's cockpit again and began fussing
with the second seat to get it low enough so Joey's feet could touch
the transparent floor. "It'd be no disgrace at all trying out new things in his
honor, son."

"Well,..... okay, Mr. Baxter. But I'm not letting go of it. Not for an instant."
Joey said with some stress that Ken noticed. Joey climbed into the seat
Ken hefted him up to, almost reluctantly, hanging onto the baseball cap
for dear life. He still didn't take it off.

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"You ain't nervous about flying now, are ya?" Ken said as he buckled up
Joey's four point crossed seat belt in around his fur lined parka. "I know
a pair of ranger gals, a doctor and a paramedic, who are. They're
deathly afraid of it. And of me, too, I think. For no good reason." he joked.

Joey scoffed. "I met those two. Joanne and Terri. They're okay for girls.
And no, I'm not scared. I love helicopters. And ships. Dad used to tell me about
them all the time." the Collins boy insisted, still not smiling. "I know exactly
what bird this is. She's an EC-145 with a clam shell back loader and she can
get up to 130 mph, even in a headwind.." declared Joey. "And turn on
a dime in the air if she wants to."

Ken rubbed his moustache with amusement.
"Land sakes. You sure know your stuff, Joey. Glad to have you aboard." he
saluted him cheerfully. "Here. Tell you what. You put this helmet on
whenever you feel like it. I won't rush ya. I promise I won't take off until you're

"I don't know.." Joey said, his face beginning to pinch in its old, familiar pain
as he ran his hands over the helmet's lightly debris pocked surface.

Baxter just sighed and shut and locked Joey's door firmly. Then he moved
over to the other side of the chopper around the front and got into the pilot's
seat. Once both doors were shut, the roaring power of the chopper eased into
a muted, steady buzz.

Ken touched Joey's shoulder. "It's all right. I understand. How about tucking your
baseball cap between your knees? You can do that real tight. And you'll be
able to hang onto it with both hands while we talk, too, because the mic keys
up differently than a ground radio's. You see that?" Ken asked, pointing to a
silver button embedded in the middle of the floor on the co-pilot's side.
It was the only solid metal plate embedded in the glass bubble arching under
Joey's feet.

"Oh, that's the foot controlled talk toggle." Collins said excitedly. "And that's the
altimeter and that's our fuel level gauge and that's the velocity monitor.. and.."
he said pointing to switches and indicators all over the chopper's flight
control panel that stretched between them. "..those others are all really cool!"

"Quite right." said, Ken, sliding into his own helmet smoothly. "Hmmmm. Looks
like I'm going to have a mighty fine ace co-pilot flying with me. Welcome
aboard, Joey." he said, reaching over to shake Joey's hand. "Glad you're
joining our team this week. It should be a real adventure. It always is."

Joey slid out of his father's cap and into his helmet quickly. "I'm ready for some."

"Good boy." Ken grinned. Then he toggled his radio trigger. "Ranger Tower,
this is Bluebird Five. We've two souls on board, lifting off for a civilian tour. We'll
be staying within the boundaries of the park with no touchdowns. I am still available
for normal business. My transponder is on." he said, plugging the communications
cable into the side of Joey's helmet.

##Copy, Bluebird Five. Two souls on board. Lift-off at 12:44. Sistercraft 240 Robert
Air, is on the ground at this time. Your immediate airspace, is clear.##

"10-4, Ranger Tower." Baxter replied.

##Current weather. Clear skies. Wind zero nine zero at five gusts to one five.##
said the dispatcher at the lodge.

"Copy that. Much appreciated. Bluebird Five, out. Okay, partner.. let's get this show
on the road." Ken told Joey. Then the boy and pilot took their bird into the frigid air

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Click the blowing leaves
    to go to Page Four

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   The Fire Within
   Movie One
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