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   The Fire Within
   Movie One
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               Page Two

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Subject: The Windfall..
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Sat 11/29/08 3:01 AM

New transfer ARFF Hallie Green picked up her feet more as
she ran her morning run alongside runway 19A, her favorite
track at work. The brisk air was making her feel invigorated
and a very rare sweat hadn't yet made an appearance.

The same wasn't true of her male companion who
was starting to fall behind her as he gamely tried to
keep up. "Hallie, I might have sprained an ankle here.
Have some sympathy." groaned her fellow firefighter
Al Martelli. "Can't you slow down a little?"

"Nope. Not in the game plan. If I slow down, I cramp
up later. Besides, we've only gone about five miles.
You can't be tired already.." said the petite blond haired
pixie like girl cheekily, still running easily in her fire station
jogging suit.

"Not.. not tired.. Wounded more like.. This runway's
skirt is pure torture! How can you run by this one?" he
gasped, still favoring his right instep as he moved up
alongside of her.

"I think I like the fact that there are hills and hidden things I
have to avoid, like that gopher hole you missed seeing a few
hundred yards back." she replied, not even breathless.
A few strides later, she glanced over at the pain in his face.
"Martelli, I could call in the equipment for you if you need

"No,.. I'm quite... I'm.. doing ..*puff* fine.." he gasped. "See?"
he said, picking up his feet a little. "Lead on, Green. 'Cause
I'm not. A lost bet is a.... lost bet.. I do your exercise routine....
for a whole week.."  Al told her. "As we agreed."

"You and your bets. They'll be your downfall everytime mister."
Hallie told him, running easily, her face finally falling into a tease.

"Not every time... I won against Chris didn't I?" Al coughed,
narrowly avoiding an unexpected electrical post that
appeared out of the dawn gloom ahead of him.

Hallie's reply was drowned out by the sound of a jet plane
roaring down the runway to which they were coursing parallel.

Green held her breath and turned her back downwind, jogging in place
as the stinking plume of fuel fumes washed over them violently
as the passenger laden plane took off.

Martelli wasn't so smart, he was caught unprepared and was
bowled over into a ditch by the temporarily bad air and violent jetwind.

Green burst out laughing once the cold fresh air reasserted itself.
She leaned over and peered into the ditch. "Ah, Martelli.. you're
such a ham. Or did you forget your live plane proximity protocols already?"
she kidded, squinting into the darkness of the grassy dip.

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Silence grew as the rapidly receding flight gained altitude.

"Martelli? Are you okay?" Haley hollered down, reaching for
her flashlight on her belt.

"Boo!!" Al screamed as he leaped out from behind a windsock's
concrete pylon that was next to her shoulder. He gave her rear
a solid smack with a hand at the same time.

Hallie gave a yell and fell onto her butt in fright. "Al! You crazy.."
she sputtered. "..curly haired goon!" she finally got out. "I
could of had a heart attack!"

"You're too young for that. I snuck in the office late one night
and read your file."

"You men are all alike. You just have to know every female
firefighter's age who trapes on through for specialized training
from the get go." she glared, still on her rear in the grass.

"Yep." Martelli laughed out loud, with his hands on his
sweaty, steaming cold weather geared hips. "Because I'm still
a hot blooded, all American guy." said the thirty something Italian.
But then he offered her a hand up. "Had to get you to slow down
some how so I could shake the kinks out of my foot from that gopher
hole back there."

"Well you could have asked."

"I thought I did."

"No, you were ordering me to. And we're still the same rank last
time I talked with the chief." Green countered.

Al's smile wiped away. "You talked with Joe?"

"Yeah, what's it to ya?" Hallie baited. "Getting worried I'll... say
something about ya, like sexual harrassment for example?"

"No, no.. I.. well I.."

"You've been nothing but charming the two weeks I've been here
so far. You're weird, and really annoying. But yeah. I told Joe
Rorchek that you were being... mostly charming." Hallie admitted.

Al smiled rakishly. "Just call me 'Prince', please."
Martelli leaned over his dirty panted knees, trying to catch his breath.
"Thanks. I thought you'd be like all the rest who came through."

"No way, I like to think I've got some class, buddy boy. I'm
from Boston, not New Jersey." she scoffed ingenuinely,
still grinning. "I can take a little stereotypical razzing."

Al waved a dismissing hand wearily at her, not looking up from
his resting stance, still breathing hard.

"Hey.." Hallie said to him. "Now that I know that neither one of
us is going to need CPR, can we continue our run? My muscles
are beginning to spaz up."

He threw out a grubby, fall filthy hand holding up one finger.
He took a deep breath, and spat out some mud and spit. Then
he lifted his head with a wolfish grin. "After you, my fair lady.."

Hallie was good enough to curtsy. Then she issued a challenge.
"Last one to the station has to do the dishes! OneTwoThree GO!"
and she took off in a cloud of frozen dust.

Al just about messed his pants on the inside. "Wait a minute!
I wasn't ready yet! I still got a fairly recent bum ankle here."
He said, painfully trying to follow at a jog.

"Tough!" she hollered back, still running away from him at
a firm, fast applied run. "Grit your teeth and pretend it's not there.
Works for me.."

"Women.." grumbled Al Martelli with a half smile. "I hate em." he
said, digging his running steps in firmly in order to catch up with
Hallie before she won the race.

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Subject: Payback's a - - - - -...
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Sun 11/30/08 2:03 AM

Chris heard a piercing whistle through his dark room
closet door. Quickly, he finished washing the finished
version of the photo he had taken earlier with Ted
in the fixer pan. With french fry tongs, he lifted
it out and then clicked off the red light bulb in the tiny
space he had worked in.

Ducking around an I.V. tubing clothesline of other
clipped on photographs still drying, Chris crawled out
into the vehicle bay, with the still wet photograph
dangling to keep it from getting smudged accidently.  

"I'm coming! There in a sec!" he called out to the fire
station at large. He grabbed his stomach as it growled
at the smell of breakfast now waiting. Then he picked off
the radio that was on his duty belt and keyed the mic with his
free hand. "Chris to Harris, grab the eight ladder and meet
me on the east side exterior. Phase two's set." he smirked.

##On my way, man. This is gonna be so sweet..## he heard
the other firefighter reply with glee on the local station band.

Soon, Rags Harris, a deep voiced, large boned handsome
African American firefighter slid down the stairwell
railing leading from the kitchen down to the vehicle bay.
"Did it turn out?"

"Yep. And more than fair. Take a look." said Chris Rorchek.

Rags reached out eager fingers. "OOoo ooo *chortle*
Looks just like the original one except for the obvious ch--"

"Shhhh! Don't touch it. It's still fresh." Chris warned, jerking back
his tongs and his new picture protectively. "Just go get the step
up and meet me outside. I need you to boost me so I can
tape it over the camera lens under the eaves."

Rags was giggling like a kid despite his huge size. "How long
do you think it'll take for Mike Porter to catch on to us?"

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"Longer than an hour for sure. He's not that sophisticated, Rags.
His phone calls to the guard shack, when he sees that we're out there
at the gate trying to get in, are about as subtle as a trainwreck."

"Well, what about Security? Won't they notice this and us
mucking with Camera One?" asked Rags Harris.

Chris smirked matter of factly after the briefest of hesitations.
"Nah, since when has Security been good for anything around here
except calling us in for medical emergencies?" said Chris. "And we
won't have to worry about plane-security breach issues either. As soon
as the tide rolls out in a couple of hours, the sea's daybreeze will tear it
free for us and blow it out over the ocean..." he said, high five-ing
the air.

"Evidence erased.." Harris agreed happily. "Wooh!" he said,
meeting Chris's enthusiastic high five. "Let's go get it done."

Two minutes later, the firemen planted their prank deftly without
being seen in the security camera's field of view of the storage
runway, and were soon off eating happily with the rest of the station crew.

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In the control tower, the morning was very routine. Security cameras
were flicking through their series of rotation images, the main
weather radar was clear, and planes were actually listening to
ISLIP Tower's instructions for landings and takeoffs fairly

So, grinning, Air Traffic Controller Mike Porter relaxed a bit with
a cup of coffee and put his feet up. For about two seconds. Tops.
Then he whipped them down again off the radar counter.

For his boss Gene Skidwell had entered the flightview floor with his
own cup of coffee in a like hand. The burly man paused at the sight
of their twin caffeine choices and chuckled. "And it's not
even snowing yet."

Mike tried to look nonchalant. "Hmm?"

"Expresso." Skidwell clarified, holding up his own.

Porter misunderstood. "Oh, no thanks. I got Folders." And
he fake tapped a radar screen into a higher contrast with
a fingernail.

Skidwell sighed and admired the view around them that
was slowly unfolding in the bright morning sunlight. As yet,
the low line of snow clouds were staying out to sea. And the
metallic glints of taxiing, landing and flight leaving planes were

Then his eye fell on one screen of the security cam network panel.
He immediately spit out the mouthful he had just taken of his
coffee. "What the--?" he sputtered, then he glared at Mike and
growled. "Is this your idea of a practical joke?" he spat.

Glancing up from a flightplan checklist, Porter cringed at the tone.
"Uh, wh- uh, what boss?"

"That right there!" Skidwell said, aiming an angry, twitching finger
at Camera One directly behind him without taking his eyes off Porter's.

Mike blanched when he noticed what was broadcasting.

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Flight One Decoy, Air Force One's target dummy, was sporting
an engine for a nose and two nose cones for engines. He began
stammering as he rubbed his face in disbelief.

"Well?!" demanded Gene Skidwell.

When Mike opened his eyes, the image display became normal,
just as a gust of wind vibrated the Control Tower.  His face
betrayed a wide range of emotions when he figured it out as
a tiny telltale shred of duct tape fluttered in the live shot.
::Those two *ssh*l*s! I'm gonna kill them!:: he thought.

Craftily, on the outside, he answered his boss truthfully.
"Camera One's fully operational, sir. And clean."

Frowning, Skidwell whipped his head back around to that particular
monitor. And saw nothing amiss at all.

Gravely, Mike Porter reached over and took the expresso out of his
boss's hand. "Here, I'd better finish that. I think you've had a little too
much this morning, sir."

"Yeah, you do that.." said Gene numbly as he stared at Camera One.
Then he shuffled out of the room in a daze after one or two weak
return glances back at the network cam station along the way.

As soon as Gene was gone, Mike Porter broke a pencil from
sheer stress relief. He was no longer smiling.

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Subject: Long Distance Approval
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Mon 12/01/08 1:08 AM

Rags and Chris were still laughing when they thundered
up the stairs leading to the kitchen.  A shout got their

"Just a minute, boys.." said Chief Joe Rorchek from
his office at the top of the landing adjacent to the
dining area.

"Yeah, dad?" said Chris, peeking into the doorway
with Rags after they had backtracked a few stairs.

The silver haired, black eyebrowed man behind
the desk in a duty uniform lifted his eyebrows.
"Did you get the requisition order placed all right?"

"Sure did. I would have gotten here sooner except
Ted and I ran into unforeseen difficulties getting
back here." he said, remembering the guard shack
delay prank with some heat.

"Delayed? Has the weather turned already?" Joe asked,
surprised, glancing over at the weather radar he had
up on the monitor across the room.

"Nah, it wasn't that kind of obstacle. But Rags and I just
took care of the problem." Chris chuckled, pleased,
elbowing Harris in the ribs as the two of them celebrated
their security camera gag in secret.

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"Good. Thanks, boys." said Joe.

"Are you coming for breakfast? It's ready. Somebody
gave the high sign a few minutes ago." rumbled Harris,
still grinning.

Joe looked up from a rolodex. "Yeah, I'll be right there.
I have a phone call to make first." replied the Chief.

"See you at the table.." said Chris. "I'll save you some bacon."

The two big firemen turned to go when Joe stopped them
for a moment. "Oh, and one more thing, fellas...."

Chris and Rags gripped the doorframe as they peeked their
heads in again. Both their faces mirrored curiosity.

Joe's face fell into serious lines. "Phase Two, eh?"

Chris and Rags shook their heads in incomprehension.

Joe pointed a pen to his turned on local HT channel scanner
that was always active on top of his desk.

::He heard our chatter on the radio?:: Chris thought in dismay.
Chris washed completely pale and Rags would have too if
he had had the skin tone to accomplish it. Both pranksters
began stammering nervously. Chris immediately began to
abase himself. "Oh, Dad. I'm SOooo sorry about that.. we
were just-"

The chief's rugged features suddenly let them off the hook.
"Relax, boys. I'm with you.  Our oneupmanship joke war
with the Tower has been going on for decades now. Glad
you finally stuck Mike Porter a notch or two. He's their top
player this year." he smirked. "Let me know how that
turns out. Inquiring minds want to know."

Both men saluted in mock. "Will do, Chief." And then
they left to get themselves some serious food.

Laughing, the gravelly voiced Joe Rorchek lifted the
phone receiver and dialed long distance.

The phone rang and was picked up.

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##Dr. Brackett, Rampart Emergency..## came the reply.

"Kel Brackett? This is Fire Chief Joe Rorchek from  
the International Long Island MacArthur Airport in  
Ronkonkoma, New York."

##Ah, yes. I remember the name from the county's
budget report. What can I do for you today, Mr. Rorchek?
Has our L.A.Co. fire station crew arrived there yet for
their cross training?## Kel asked.

"Not yet. They're scheduled to report to me on Friday,
three days from now. Doctor, the reason why I'm calling.
Can we utilize.. uh.. " as he peered myopically at a file
laid out in front of him. "..your John Gage and Roy DeSoto's
paramedic statuses while they're here at the station?"

##By all means. A new Registry's extended our local
California paramedic program up to the national level
just last month. I've already talked with your ambulance
service's medical director and he'll be assuming
responsibility for all care rendered by my men
to the public in my stead. We've transferred licensors
temporarily for the extent of their visit with you.##

Joe sighed appreciatively.
"Thank you, doctor. I appreciate the courtesy. We've a
few paramedics available to the airport but they are
only associated with the ambulance companies who respond
to our calls after we do."

##I suspected as much. You East Coasters are still learning
our game with the medics-in-firehouses idea.##

"I hope to pitch that training program you started out
there to my legislators next session. Maybe we can get the
ball rolling a little faster on that avenue." Joe suggested.

##That's why I jumped at the chance at your offer of
cross training county fire with airport rescue fire services.
The encounter will undoubtly prove to be mutually beneficial.##
Dr. Brackett shared.

"A pleasure, Doctor. Thanks for your endorsement."

##Anytime, Chief.  Please call me with any further questions,
thoughts, or ideas. I'm always available through my private
messenger service.##

"I appreciate it. Oh, and one more thing." Joe said.

##Sure. What's that?##

"Hug a palm tree for all of us, will you? Somehow just looking
at calendars from California around here aren't enough." Joe
Rorchek joked, eyeballing the beach one hanging opposite his
desk on the station's community board. "We're STILL trying to
believe that it's a real place." he joked.

##Only if you save some snow for us. We're stuck in the middle of
a late fall heat wave.##


##Stay safe and warm out there, Chief. ##

"Most assuredly. Goodbye, Dr. Brackett."  


Joe hung up the phone, and sighed as the first snow flakes began
to fall outside his office window.

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Subject: Camaraderie Charms
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Mon 12/01/08 1:12 PM

Breakfast was a loud, jaunty, happy experience for all six
at the fire station at the airport. It seemed everybody talked
at once and yet everyone was fully understood by all of the
others in a way that only a well knit team could do.

Hallie Green was fresh and showered. And her ex-running
partner, Al Martelli, was showered, but far from refreshed.
He was moping about the sink, applying himself to dishes
whose pile seemed to be growing as one by one, firefighters
added them to the wash water.

"It's got to be karma working, guys, just bad karma. I keep
losing all the bets I make." sulked Al, weakily wiping a towel
over a plate.

Hallie snorted. "Admit it, Martelli. You're over the hill."

"At thirty?" replied Green with a little afront.

"Yep. It's either that or the fact that you're getting fat." she said
ungraciously, but sweetened with a pixie smile.

Martelli threw a towel ball that caught Green on the back of
the head.

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"And he scores!" said Ted, not looking up from his newspaper.
"Say, guys. Did you see here? There's an Alberta clipper headed
our way by Saturday."

Joe Rorchek grunted. "Umm hmm, I already know it's coming.
Pass me the salt?"

"He can feel it in his very bones....." said Harris, teasing as
he slid the shaker down the table like a talented barkeep.

The shaker miraculously passed all obstacles as firefighters
lifted plates, moved mugs, or picked up their feet to get
out of its way without looking.

The chief intercepted the offering deftly. "Thanks. My bones
aside, this means an ice alert and stepped up vigilance for us
a day earlier than that."

"Aww, chief." Hallie moaned.
  "Won't be that bad. It's only early December.." Rags countered.
"The tarmack crew can handle those checks just as well as we can."
suggested Chris Rorchek.
"I hate the cold." sighed Martelli.
"Well then, enjoy your hot water.." Ted told him pointedly.

The chief answered them all. "They'll be busy with the holiday
crowds and increased flight traffic. I've already volunteered us
for regular patrols checking the fuel depots and chem stores. Take
on the alpha schedule of shifts, handling that, immediately."

"Yes, sir.." they all said as one, fun instantly quelled for business.

A few minutes later, Al was nursing his dishwater wrinkled hands
in a bowl of handcream as he lounged on the couch, digesting

A loud burp issued forth from somebody, but no one cared.

And soon, conversation had died down to a blissful silence as
everybody either dozed or read or inspected their turnouts
and boots for holes from the hooks lined up along the wall.

Rags opened up sleepy eyes when he heard the wind start
to howl. "I know what we could do to liven up the place a
little. Those beachside calendars aren't enough. I think we
should all vote on getting another dog."

Chris scoffed from his perch on the counter where he was
doing situps. "A second dog with free rein around here. Hmph. That's
brilliant." he said sarcastically. "Why ruin this utter peace and

Right then, a close flying jumbo jet taking off, rattled the
dishes in the cupboards and made the leftover coffee mugs
strewn across the long table, dance in excited jitters.

When the plane quake had passed, Al Martelli grunted in
annoyance. "Oh, you mean that peace and quiet?"

Everybody laughed.

Chief Rorchek looked up at the ceiling. "Looks like the new
holiday season's begun. That's the third plane in at least as
many minutes."

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"May they all remain safe and snug for the rest of the year
and beyond." Ted said, feeling the change too.

"Here. Here." replied all soberly. Nobody wanted to acknowledge
the very reason for their working jobs' existence. For death, when
it visited, always came quickly to their playground.


Joey Collins ran excitedly through the visitor's center side door
with his knapsack in his hands. He ran to the front park ranger's
information desk and there he spotted Captain Paul Carnes, working
on paperwork. "Hi Paul.."

"Well, hi there, Joey. Did your grandmother give you permission to
hang out with me today in a career shadow?"

"She sure did. Here's MY paperwork." he said seriously, adjusting
his U.S.S. Intrepid Navy baseball cap absently more firmly onto
his head.

Captain Carnes read over the permission slip and waiver and found
everything in order. "Well, all right. We're good to go then. But first,
I need about ten minutes more to finish up my business. Then we'll
go get your tour started, okay?"

"But you promised to look at my toy ships today." Joey pouted, his deep
brown limpid eyes filling.

"I will, son. I will." Paul looked around the counter in front of him. "But I have
to get this part of my job done first. Oh, here. I have an idea. This is a map of
Lake Augustus. It's big enough to be a whole ocean for those ships of yours
to navigate.." he hinted handed out the tourist map in a dangle. "I heard one
of the islands was marked as having buried treasure on it..."

"Really?" Joey sniffed, his sadness already evaporated. "Let me see!"

Paul leaned over the counter and pulled down his ranger's hat.
"I won't tell if you won't." he whispered confidentially.

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Joey grinned happily and snatched the map away from Paul's hand in
a crunch of paper. He ran over to the marble floor near the lobby fireplace
and spread out the map. Unceremoniously, he dumped out his navy
ship models into an eager pile noisily on top of the unfolded lake map
and began to play.

Paul chuckled in his throat, watching him from his desk chair.

"You know, you're really good with kids considering you haven't any of
your own yet." said Joanne Almstedt.

Carnes looked up to see his doctor coworker, warmly. "I like to
think this job's brought out the best in me over the years since
I left working for the ambulance service."

"You're still a very good paramedic." Joanne said, leaning over
the counter to face him nose to nose. Her long black hair fell forward
around her face in a way that Paul found very attractive. "And I hope
we can start to bring out the best in little Joey soon for his grandmother."

"What happened to him?" Paul asked curiously.

"He lost his father in the war and he's having a hard time adjusting.
And he has no mother, she died giving birth to Joey."

"That's rough."

"Sure is. Poor kid." sighed Joanne. "So, if we can make him forget his
loneliness for even a day or so while Sarah and he are staying here,
mission's accomplished. I'm footing their bill as part of my charitable
counseling work."

"We'll make him happy. One way or another. We always do." winked
Paul. Then he turned to other subjects. "How's our star rookie nurse/ranger,
Terri Blake doing nowdays?" he asked tongue and cheek, still not knowing
how he felt yet about her little avalanche incident.

Joanne's eyes fell unreadable.
"She's sleeping soundly but normally. I have audio on in her room.
Here's her medical report for the insurance company."

"Thanks." Paul caught Joanne's eyes firmly. "I have to ask. The accident
was no fault of her own?" he asked seriously.

Joanne blinked, surrendering. "No, this was a case of being a little too
eager to please I think. She gave up a lot to come here for this job."

"She did?" Carnes asked. "I'm afraid I don't know that much about her yet."

Smiling, Joanne whispered near his ear, not adverse to priming the pot.
"Well, maybe you should learn a thing or two.." she encouraged.
"She reminds me a lot, of you." Then she turned for the hospital with one
long appraising look at little Joey Collins by the fireplace, and left.

Paul nodded his head matter of factly. "Right. Learn about your coworkers.
Always a good thing. Why do I always keep forgetting that?" he self chided.
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The air was brisk but still clear and sunny in the next mountain valley over
from the Appalchian Center. Johnny Gage pulled his rover, full of the
gang's camping gear, up to Tag number 70 that was located in a ravine
thick with pine and beech trees. A lazy heat made them all sweat in
their winter coats.

"Man. Yep, Indian summer for sure." commented Chet as he got out of
the jeep. "Feel this heat. It's making even my skin red."

Gage just glared at him, already tired of Kelly's jokes about his nationality.

Cap said, "Okay, fellas. The faster we get the tents up, the faster
we can go exploring to find the best places to put our deer stands."

Roy smiled, pulling off a ski cap that he didn't need. "Isn't it nice
that the park extended the hunt this year because of over population?
I can't see us missing our buck tag. Can you?"

"Not when I'm around." said Johnny. "I always get my meat."

"What chick scores are you talking about there, ah, Johnny?"
Chet asked, rubbing his chin mischieviously, baiting Gage.

"Don't be crude."  Johnny retorted.

Kelly chuckled. "I wasn't trying to be. But boy, those two park ranger
chicks were mighty fine looking steaks to me. I think I'm gonna
save me some Worchestershire."

The others laughed.

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"Ah, yes, Johnny Gage's legendary Native American deer tracking skills."
Kelly said grandly, kicking a foot through the old ashes and coals
in the fire ring on the beach by the brook near them. "But we
won't need them this weekend, Johnny. Technology's beating you
out this time." And he pulled out a little brown bottle with a white label
on it from his jacket's pocket.

Cap made a face. "Oh, *faughh* Is that what I've been smelling all the
way from California?"

Mike Stoker looked up in disgust from the mountain map he had laid out on
a sun warmed boulder. "Yep. Pure doe-in-estrus. Unmistakable odor."

"What, are you a buck or something?" Chet complained at him.

"No, but I am allergy free, unlike most of the rest of you, except maybe Cap."
replied Stoker. "Nothing wrong with this nose."

Hank was frank.
"Oh, I don't care what that stuff is! Chet, you go bury that pee somewhere
far from where we're pitching our tents, is that understood? I came here
not only for some good venison steaks eventually, but for some wonderful
smog free air as well. I don't need some chemistry geek like you spoiling
my vacation with the likes of that." he said, pointing to the vile little vile.

"Okay." Chet shrugged. "I'll save it all for myself. We'll see who gets the
first fletch draw. And it's gonna be me. A ten pointer for sure."

"I know I'm not dumb enough to pour urine all over myself like perfume.
I'm not a lure. I'm a dignified human being." said Marco Lopez.

The others laughed.

"Come on, I'm getting hungry guys." said Cap. "Let's get a fire going enough
to get some chow on. Looks like it's gonna be a beautiful day." he said
admiring the golden glow of fall leaves in the glade around them.

Contentedly, the gang made deer camp, leaving their ranger given radio
sitting on top of the hood of the rover where they could listen to it to keep
an ear out for other hunters in their area.
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Subject: Off Target
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Thu 12/18/08 6:43 PM

It was almost nightfall and peace reigned over
the creek valley location where the gang had outfitted
their deer camp. The lazy heat of the day was fleeing,
leaving behind the autumn crispness that had been
readily apparent among the yellowing beech trees
surrounding their two picketted, white canvas tents.

Thwock! came an echoing sound, reverberating around
the open-to-the-air, rustic creekbed.

On an improvised hammock, Captain Stanley smiled.
"That's what? Eight in a row?" he called out to Chet, who
had just released a fletched arrow from his beefed up
compound bow.

"Nine." Kelly shouted back, still eyeing up the target thirty
yards away. It was nearly invisible in the shadows but he wasn't
even squinting to see it. "I'm simply perfect now, man. I told you
that before we left home. Remember?"

"I can't forget it." Cap celebrated. "That's why we planned this
trip in the first place. Guaranteed deer meat. And here we come!
I'm awfully glad it's gonna be venison on the menu, and not fish
this time." he quipped.

Irked by the reminder of the rejected Santa Rose county trout
memory, Johnny Gage looked up from the stream where he was
washing the last of their dinner dishes out with water and beach sand.
"Are they ALL solid hits in the vitals?" Gage finally asked the two of
them.  Inwardly, he admitted a frightening thought. ::I can't even see the
deer's cardboard outline anymore in this fading light and I'm much, much
closer to it than Chet is.:: he realized mentally.

Thwock!  came another deciding impact sound of an arrow straight
on target. "Yep. Every one.... And that makes ten. And counting..."
Kelly gloated, still baiting Gage. He sighed deeply, invigorated.
"Care to go six against six, Johnny boy?" he finally trickled.

Johnny was instantly on his feet.  He dropped the empty, bottom burned
pork and beans pan onto the sandbar half full with creek water, to
soak. "You're on. That arm's of yours has got to be getting tired out
by now."

Mike Stoker chuckled from where he was snoozing in his steaming
shoes near the roaring campfire. He lifted his head from a convenient
pillow log. "On an engine firefighter? Johnny, are you for real?
One puny little bow's nothing compared to hours working with a live
fire hose. You and Roy work far too many medical calls, so we
know you don't have the same forearm muscles we do. Chet's gonna
Robin Hood the h*ll out of you, Gage. Watch out." he grinned.

"In ..his.... dreams.." said Johnny, scoffing good naturedly.

"Or maybe his." said Roy, pointing over to his left at another shadow.

Everybody looked in that direction.

Next to DeSoto, Marco snored loudly, obliviously content, with a very full
stomach. He was slumped limply, head backwards, in a camp lounge chair
surrounded by four empty beer cans littering the ground around his feet.

Roy just grinned at Lopez, lightbulbing an idea. "Tell you what. The winner
doesn't have to carry Marco here to his sleeping bag.." he challenged.

"You're on.." said both Kelly and Gage. The two camouflaged tan
and orange bedecked firemen friends spat on their hands and they
eagerly shook on it.

Cap's support of Chet was unwavering. "Oh, this is gonna be good."
he said, lifting up his hunter's cap so he could watch Johnny and
Chet toe a line on the beach next to the burbling ice-water creek. They
squared off shoulder to shoulder in front of the whitetail buck target
that was already festooned with Chet's bright chartreuse feathered arrows.

Quickly, Chet froze in place to knock off another arrow into the air.

Gage's recollection gave him an unwilling instant replay. In slow mo.
::Raised the bow, aimed and shot. In three seconds? Tops?! Holy cow!..::
Johnny's mind beleaguered in nagging analysis.

Thwock! And the card target deer's ribs behind the elbow sprouted a
new limb, pock cratered at the impact point. The arrow vibrated there for
a long time.

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Gage tried not to let the noise of it distract him. Nor the enthusiastic cheers
of Cap, which followed the perfect "kill" Chet had once again executed. <--(Sorry, pun. So sue me. :P :)

Kneeling, Johnny got out his simple elegant pine recurve bow, a traditional one,
steeped with eagle feathers and just a clean line of antelope leather for an
arrow notch. Intricate colorful beadwork decorated its entire length as he
drew out the rest of it from its protective, moth eaten, ratty old Seminole

Mike Stoker whistled appreciatively at it. "You guys got the same poundage?"
he asked, eyeing up its size.

"Doesn't matter." Johnny shot back. "This is all about skill. Right, Chet?"

"If you say so." Kelly smirked, coughing smugly as he fitted another arrow
to his bow sights on his thoroughly modern fiberglass bow.

"Just shut up and draw." Johnny said, gritting his teeth in fully aroused

"You first." Kelly sniffed, unconcerned at Johnny's sharpness.

"Okay.. Stand aside then." Johnny sighed dangerously.

Chet just smiled.

Gage's eye never wavered from the low shoulder area he felt
in the darkness on the cutout. He cocked his arm back, hugging his
now taut rawhide gut bowstring and then he silently cheek kissed his first
chosen falcon feathered arrow. With his target clearly burned into his mind,
Johnny released it smoothly with a gentle creak of leather after his eyes

Away it flew.

Everybody froze, waiting for an impact.

The answering quiet was overwhelming.

Cap started laughing, aiming a flashlight into the trees. "I don't see it there.
Did any of you guys see that one hit at all?" he teased into the new silence.

Gage's eyes flew open and his mouth flopped open. "What?"

Roy didn't giggle. "Why don't you try that again, junior. You haven't had a
chance to warm up yet like Chet did before he started practicing."

"Yeah.. uh, I think I will." Gage stammered, still utterly surprised that his sure
"feel" didn't match the outcome that he knew he had normally experienced,
all of his life. "I..uh, m- missed? Are you sure?" he whispered.

Chet was gentlemanly enough not to jab a man when he was down. "No biggie,
Gage. Don't worry. I'll help ya look for that one afterwards. Cap, can
you turn off that flashlight so our eyes can get readjusted again?"

"Oh, yeah, right. Sorry." Hank replied, shutting off the torch. The bright starry
night returned in an eerily long blue twilight that they weren't familiar with at
all. "Wow, the air's actually still glowing here. Weird."

"It's the latitude. Slower sunsets." Stoker supplied, ever accurate.

A minute later, while they all patiently waited, Johnny complained. "Sorry, my eyes
are still buzzing, guys." he said, wiping away sweat as he tried to concentrate
on the target he knew was still somewhere in the darkness. But his mind's
eye seem to fail him once again.

Cap chuckled. "You should lay off the beer then. You're not very big in size, pal.
Maybe the one you had's getting to you." he suggested reasonably. "You did
drive the rover all day long."

"I'm fine." he hissed. "See?" he told him, holding up a very steady hand.
"Maybe I'm just not concentrating enough yet."

Chet smirked. "Gage, not concentrating? Quick! Somebody nick a finger on a knife
or something. The paramedic in him'll kick in and refocus all those marvelous
Indian instincts he claims he's got after he sees some blood."

"Ha. Ha. Think you're clever?" Johnny said, getting mad. His eyes glimmered
fiercely as he fought down a shallow retort. Carefully, he held his breath on the
next arrow as he lined up and pulled it back into full tension.

Seconds whispered by..

Then Gage let it go firmly, his bowstring singing.

The gang held bated breath, but only the wind replied back.

They fell mute. Completely. But then Chet tried to save the moment.

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Kelly's face lit up in good humor and he said. "Hey, Johnny. Watch this."
he remarked being intentionally silly. And he turned his back to the target.
Reaching out behind him, he let go of his notched arrow one handed,
without looking.

Thwock! came the loud, answering strike.

"Oh wow, that one hit?!" Chet gaped.

The whole gang, except Marco and Gage surged forward to check out
the target in the trees with shocked sudden hoots and whistles of admiration.

Johnny was stunned and his mouth reflected it and the truth of what
his eyes were telling him.

The flickering torchlight soon announced the others' return back into the

Cap proudly held up the deer silhouette. Twelve arrows, all Chet's, stabbed
deeply into the blue and red paper oval that designated the heart and lungs
on the target. "Nice, Chet! That last one was a heart shot for sure. See?"
Hank pointed, fingering the newest arrow shot through the tiny red circle
on the paper.

Gage, disturbed, leaned on his slack bow, hardly moving. "Where're my
shots? Holy cow, man. What happened to MY arrows?"

The others' glee washed away into sudden seriousness when they
realized that Gage was truly distraught. Mike Stoker solemnly
went over to the dark haired paramedic. "Here they are. I found them in the
grass about twenty feet past the target." he said uncomfortably. "Their shafts
aren't broken or splintered. And I checked the tips. They're not even bent.."
he tried to smile. "Probably because the ground's not frozen yet."

Johnny took them from his hand slowly, not looking at anybody. "What the
h*ll?" he asked numbly, looking at his bow arm and hand, too.

Cap replied, soothingly. "Maybe you're just tired, pal.
Nothing wrong with that. We did just drive 1,100 miles in one straight shot
today. Tell you what, we'll rematch in the morning. And as for the prize problem
here, I'll take Marco in myself." he said. Hank turned and hefted up the
sleeping, mildly exhausted but occasionally beer belching Lopez over a shoulder.

"I'll leave an empty coffee can next to him so he doesn't have to get up
to go later.." Gage answered back, thinking ahead.

Hank waved his free hand in acknowledgement. "That's a good plan.
Why don't you go get some sleep and stop worrying about the match?" he
suggested as he strode away with Lopez draped over him. "It's just all in
good fun."

Mike and Chet were still talking animatedly about how easily Chet had shot
out two quivers' worth of arrows over by the fire, when Roy joined his partner
by the water's edge in the dark. Soon, both of Squad 51's men watched the
excited pair leave for the sleeping tent as they decided to go in to play some
cards by lantern light.

Sighing, DeSoto stooped and picked up the unfinished dishes one by one
to store them until morning.  "Hey, Johnny. You turning in, too? I'm thinking
about going early before all this newly chilled air starts to annoy me again."

"Yeah. I'll ...... be there in a sec." he said, putting away his bow and quiver
of handmade arrows into its snug bundle once more. He moved slowly while
packing it away. Then he looked up, still holding the wrap in his lap thoughtfully.
"Why did I miss today, Roy? I've never missed with my bow while
hunting before. Not for years and years now." he wondered, still troubled.

Roy squatted by his side, thinking for long moments. When he spoke it
was softly, with words well thought out. "Maybe it was because that deer
target wasn't any kind of real food, don't you think? It was all just pretend.
Pretty dumb shooting something made out of paper, if you ask me."

Johnny scoffed, making a belligerent noise.

Roy countered him instantly. "Hey. I'm serious here. I'm just trying to make
you feel better."

Gage settled, studying his hands, while he flexed them sadly.
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"Have faith in yourself. I know I do. You'll still be flawless for the real deal.
I can't see why not. You never haven't been that way before."  Roy winked,
teasing, trying to make light of the whole ball of wax.

Gage didn't say anything and he just watched the moonlit water flowing
by them, over the rocks, at their feet.

Roy touched his arm. "Hey. This isn't the end of the world. You're firmly
grounded in reality, Johnny. Not in fantasy. I know at least that much
about you."

"Think so?" Johnny asked him seriously.

"Well, yeah. Isn't that why your other deer hunting trips went well for you
while you were growing up on the reservation?"

"I sure hope it was. A few minutes ago really freaked me out, man." Gage
whispered. "Kelly actually shot rings around me. Just like Stoker said he
would. And he's not even Native American."

"I won't tell anyone."

"Thanks." came Gage's sarcastic reply. "You're all heart."

"Listen. You don't have to hold that contest in the morning like the others
still want to do. Just say you're conserving your strength or something." Roy

"Yeah, right. They'll really buy into that." he sniffed. "Especially Kelly." Johnny
mused miserably. Then he started smiling. "I can see it now. Chet'll gloat so
much he won't eat until his pancakes get ice cold."

"The simple truth outs, Johnny. Can't steer wrong sharing that kind of thing." Roy

"Oh, yes I can." said Gage, remembering the last time he and Roy had held
discussions about honesty and people. His light expression disappeared and
he irritatedly stopped a sudden yawn he found he was fighting off.  

Roy saw that his eyes were heavy with fatigue.

Then a fall wind picked up.

DeSoto coughed and finally shivered at the night. "Brrrr, man! I HATE the
idea being in a state with four seasons." he sighed and then he startled when he
saw his breath appear in front of his face. "Oh, geez," he said, frightening himself.  
Then he sighed again. "Suit yourself. I'm staying out of it just the same. Away from this
cold and your contest willies." Roy said as he started back to the main tent. He
stopped himself, thinking about safety. "Oh, uh, wait a minute. You want me to put
out the campfire before I go to bed?"

"Nah, I'll do it later." Gage half smiled. "I wanna sharpen all my arrow tips for a while."

Roy chuckled. "Go get 'em. Heh."  He meant more than just arrows.

Moments later, DeSoto left him alone, for the warmed up sleeping tent.
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Subject: The Flow of Life.
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Sun 12/21/08 1:31 AM

Dawn came early to the woods. The sun was bright as it
rose, but along with it, came the cold.

Chet shifted on his deer stand, looking at Johnny.
"Are you sure this is where the game trail leads?
I'm not seeing any signs of horn or fur appearing

Gage didn't move from his relaxed, unmoving, ready
crouch on a branch. "That's antlers and hides, Mr.
Supposedly Expert Shooter. And yes, this is the right place.
They all just have to come through here looking for water and they're
gonna want to get at the cliff over there to lick the mineral
salts out of that clay bank."

"I don't see any footprints here." Chet said, unconvinced.

"There's a big buck print beneath our tree. Can't you see it? A four
year old. It's pressed right down there into the sand, plain as day."
Johnny insisted, pointing. "Look again." Then Johnny saw that he
wasn't looking, only fidgetting, so Gage grabbed Kelly's face in two hands
and pointed his nose downwards. "Try a little harder." Johnny groused.

Kelly looked in vain, sighing like a steam engine.
"The only thing plain as day to me is that the fact that the
two of us have been freezing our *ss*s off for hours, apparently
for nothing. I'm beginning to think that Roy had the right idea by
staying bundled up in his sleeping bag next to a roaring campfire."
Kelly shivered, blowing on his camouflaged hands to warm them.
"I'm hungry."

"What, didn't you like your pancakes?" Gage chuckled.

"Very funny. They were frozen."

Johnny decided not to tell him the reason why. He handed
Chet his thermos of hot coffee to sip. "If you want to eat like a king,
you just have to be patient." Gage said reasonably.

"I AM gonna be a patient, when I freeze to death by noon."
Kelly whispered, shivering. "Then you and Roy are gonna have to
call in those park rangers to fly me outta here as a hypothermia case."
Chet told him.

But Johnny wasn't paying any attention to him. His eye was on a subtle
movement in the brush below. "Chet. Shh." he cautioned. He held
up a fast, quieting set of fingers. "For a moment."

"What? Am I complaining too much? Well, it's the truth." Kelly said.

"ShhHHhh. Look!"

"Where?" Kelly sniffed.

"Down there.." Johnny suggested sarcastically. "It's him."


"Would you just shush?" Gage whispered, growing agitated.
"Our ticket outta these icy woods. It's our tag. And he's
big. A ten pointer for sure." Johnny stage whispered.

"...ohHHhh.... oo. Ooo." Chet grunted, getting excited. He
pulled his huge complicated compound bow to his shoulder
to start eyeing up his bowstring sights.

"Not yet.." Johnny said through gritted teeth, lowering it
with a shove. "He's still too far away.."

"Says who?" Chet told him. "I can hit an acorn at ninety paces.
Just what do you think last night proved, huh? I can bag him
just f--"

Gage glared at Kelly and grabbed his shoulders swiftly in a partially
angry, noise stifling warning. "We're not gonna stuff anything,
including our mouths, if you don't start clamming up! He's
almost within hearing range.." he hissed back. He froze his lips into
stealth mode as he drew out his own bow and fitted an arrow to it.

Amazingly, Kelly stayed mute, following suit, trying to birdeye the
slow moving buck he still couldn't see.

A minute past. Then two. Johnny remained calm and collected,
frozen solid, with the bowstring held at full tension.

*Snort* came a noise from below as the buck froze to scout
the traces of buck lure Chet had left on the leaf littered
ground nearby for a second, before he began to step nearer,
foot by foot, to the strongest signs of spilled scent.
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Chet finally saw the outline. "There you are. Say bye bye, Bambi."
he whispered and released his shot.

"NO!" Gage hollered, quickly trying to deflect the arrow with
a shove of his elbow.

But he was too late.
The sick thud of a sluggish arrow hitting just shoulder bone echoed
around the glade before the shocked, superficially impaled buck
leaped up and began to flee away from them in a rush of dried
leaves and breaking branches.

"What did you do that for?" Chet asked as he watched Gage suddenly
deploy a rope to rappel down to the ground after shouldering
his bow and quiver. "I got him." he insisted.

Gage landed on the ground solidly and let go of the rope.
"You just wounded him, Chet! And now he's suffering. Horribly."
he snapped. "Never, EVER take a shot on moving game. That's
totally, totally cruel. Those are never sure kill!"

Kelly stopped an equally heated comeback, suddenly uncertain.

Johnny pointed towards the thicket into which the buck had fled
with an irritated gesture as he swiftly began to track blood sign
to follow him. "Just listen to what you did.." he raged.

Painful gasps and bleats began to fill the woods, slowly growing
quieter as the distance grew between the running, panicking whitetail
deer and his two firemen hunters. But that didn't lessen their impact
on Kelly.

Chet blanched and he almost dropped his bow as he quickly shimmeyed
down out of the deer stand to join Johnny. He felt sick to his stomach.
"I didn't know, Johnny. I didn't think--"

"That's right you didn't think! A cardboard cutout's a far cry from a
living, breathing, feeling target." he said jogging after the disheveled trail
of red droplets on the leaves ahead of him. "You need to be
a lot closer to any large game to get a tip down to vitals cleanly. Now let's
get after that poor buck and end it for him just as fast as we can." Gage
said turning his anger into constructive criticism.

Chet hurried after him, cowed.

Four minutes later, Johnny spied the bleating buck just as he was
failing to climb the creekbank on the opposite side of the
small valley because of his crippling shoulder injury.

Gage could see the bright neon yellow feathers and three quarters
of Chet's arrow still sticking out of the deer's quivering hide and muscle.

He swiftly knelt twenty yards away and loosed a solid arrow that caught
the buck squarely in the white hair of its breast. A fast trickle of red
began to course down as the buck shuddered on four shaky legs, slowly
turning his head, ears, and frightened eyes to regard his pursuers in surprise.  

But seconds later, the deer dropped like a stone from Gage's definitive
shot, ....dead.

Gage hurried over to the fallen buck to make sure the kill was over,
and it was. Chet followed more slowly, still stunned by what he had
learned, saw and felt right then.

"But that's just my arrow." Chet said, pointing to the yellow shaft embedded
in the deer's shoulder. Its feathers were glowing brightly in the dawn's light
on the edge of the field where they stood. "I don't understand." he whispered.
"Where's yours? I don't see--"

"That's because mine went clear through both lungs, the heart, and
out the other side, Chet." he hissed, holding up the bloody whole
arrow of his own that he had just retrieved from deep in the still soft
dirt a few feet beyond the buck's carcass. "Like it was supposed to
have done with yours in the first place!"

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Kelly actually flinched, and suddenly Gage bit his own lip in mental
apology when a memory flashed back of his own first failed kill when
he was a boy. His tribal mentor hadn't reacted as violently to his own
lack of a kill mistake to the same degree as what Johnny had just done
to Chet a short minute ago.

"I'm sorry, Johnny. Really, truly. I am. I never wanted the deer to suffer.
You know that." Kelly told him quietly, his face still stricken. "I sure
do, too, even more than you can possibly know right now." he said,
getting vehement in his shock at his own, thoughtless error. His
eyes were bright with tears.

Gage sighed impatiently, with open sympathy, eager to get the past five
minutes out of his mind forever. "Come on. Let's get him dressed out
for our packs."

Kelly knelt and placed a hand on the buck's still steaming, soft flank,
being respectful. Gage saw that even though Kelly was reluctant
to retrieve his arrow back, his mind was mentally working.

Johnny nodded, answering Chet's unspoken question. "Yes,
your shot would have been as good as mine if you had been
as close as I was when I took him down. This is at the right
angle for a solid hit. It was only lack of force that broke the
tip off at bone level."

Chet just nodded, fighting strong emotions. But then he said,
"Let's not take the rack, Johnny. Not after that. It just doesn't seem
right." Kelly told him, changing the subject.

Johnny afforded him a slight smile. "Okay. Just our food."
Then he remembered another far away memory of his first
game hunt that had gone badly, so he added. "Let's build
a cairn, too, so we can leave the antlers behind. I'll say a few
prayers as a thank you."

"So will I." Kelly added quickly, even though he wasn't a
very religious man, on any facet.

Gage bent then and freed up Chet's arrow for him from
where it was buried. He stood and handed the shattered
shaft back to Kelly with strong shades of sympathy.
Johnny said. "We are part of a Circle. Never forget that
we're givers, too."

"And takers." Kelly agreed, understanding at last.

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   The Fire Within
   Movie One
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