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   The Fire Within
   Movie One
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               Page One

The Story Unfolds...

Season Seven, Movie One

  The Fire Within  

Debut Launch: June 27th, 2008.

The Fire Within
  by staff writer, Patti Keiper NREMT-B

Subject: Back To Nature
Date: Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:35 am
From: patti keiper <>

Sarah Collins had been driving all night. An hour before noon, she turned
onto the last mountain highway indicated on her trip-tic highlighted in crayola
crayon yellow, ..her smaller companion's bored handiwork.

She hung an arm out of a window, letting the autumn cool, beech tree
laden wind whip into their rusty gray pickup to chase away
approaching drowsiness.

Her grandson, Joey, was leaning forward with his head on his
hands on top of the dashboard, rubbing his nose. "Are we there

Sarah smiled. "Sure are. See that brown sign? It says, ... Appalachian
Center and National Momument, and Patchogue, Long Island, New York.
Fourteen miles."

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An unexpected gust of wind tore the baseball cap from Joey's head to
the back seat floor. With a cry of instant dismay, the small boy
wormed out of his seatbelt only long enough to fling himself backward
over the top of his highback chair to retrieve it. Desperately, he clutched
it to his chest as his face twisted with a very old vulnerable anxiety once he
returned to his passenger seat. But he did not make a sound.

Sarah glanced over to her eight year old grandson. "Here, Tiger. Let me
see it." She pulled up onto the road's shoulder and came to a halt.

Reluctantly, the boy set it carefully onto her lap. Sighing softly, Sarah
picked it up and ran neat nailed fingers across the bold stitching across the
top above the sharply curved bill. ...U.S.S. Intrepid.. she read
as she remembered Ben's fatal accident out at sea.  The gold lettering
and emblem blurred into the rich navy blue as tears for her dead son,
Joey's father, returned unbidden. She quickly kissed the
hat and stroked it fondly as she blinked away tears before the boy
would notice them. "Seems all right." she said falsely bright. "Why, it's just
as new as when your father broke every law in the traffic book to get it home
to you..." she chuckled. She looked up and saw all emotion drain away
from Joey's face and it was only then she realized her mistake.

::My G*d.:: Sarah thought. ::I must've said that out loud.::  Shaken, she
forced another unreal grin onto her face and then she looked away
matter of factly to pull on her black and white checked knit gloves
onto fingers growing numb from the chilly the steering wheel.  Her heart
felt just as chilled and as haunted as Joey looked. But she spoke warmly
anyhow. "I know that's your absolute favorite hat of all time. So feel proud.
I know I am."

Joey's face finally broke away from its tight silent tension and he took it
back from her lap to plunk it onto his head tightly. This time, he held onto
the baseball cap with both hands to fiercely keep it there.

Collins grinned and then she reached over his lap to roll up the window on
Joey's side until it was just a crack. "There. The wind isn't going to do
that again. You can let go of it now."

Joey didn't, as he sat quietly in his seat, hanging on with fully laced fingers.

Sarah just nodded with gentle acceptance and pulled the truck back onto the
road and sped up, heading for the wilderness park that was located a few
minutes away from an island isthmus airport.


Above Snowpoint Ridge, Bluebird Five hovered, bearing its three
occupants, Ken, Joanne and Terri above the mountain slope, easily.

Ken Baxter pulled the head set onto his neck and shouted over the roar
of the bird's rotor blades. "Girls, you know what to do. Rappel down near
the north edge, plant the detonation charges in six points at the base with
your delay timers set at the ends." He pointed."How about stringing the
wire leads to those boulders over there? They should offer protection from
the wind long enough for you to light them. Once they're burning hot,
get the heck out of there. Don't waste any time. This is a high risk slide
area but only inside where you see the scrape away signs and missing
trees. Be sure you locate the edge of them first so you'll know where to run.
I want you in a safe area within thirty seconds of lighting the caps." he
said, chewing on his moustache as he ran the plan through his head
once again.

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Joanne Almstedt pushed her dark bangs from her eyes.
"We got it." said the woman. "Right, Terri?"

Terri Blake, the blond park ranger trainee next to her, snapped back into
reality from where she was staring at the snow blown billows swirling
around the chopper through the open door. "Huh? Oh,.. Right, Ken. We're
set." she grinned as she gave him a thumbs up.

Before Terri could pull off her communications headset, Ken gripped
her shoulder. "Terri, if you have any doubts whatsoever about ANYthing,
pull out. Signal. Just raise me on the radio.. and we'll forget the whole thing.
Remember, this aspect of the job's a necessary chore to being a specialized
field forest ranger beyond search and rescue. It's gonna be no different
than the other five trail clean ups you've already done. Only difference is
that this site's gonna react. All right? We're just trail clearing today for all
the incoming deer hunters."

Terri smiled and nodded.

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Roy DeSoto blew on his hands as he nestled uncomfortably deeper
into his thick parka. Johnny Gage was driving the camper topped
conversion van that held the equally warmly bundled Chet Kelly,
Marco Lopez, Mike Stoker and Hank Stanley who were dozing in the
back amid stowed fire gear and personal luggage and food coolers.

Johnny threw a look at his shivering partner and took sympathy as
he cranked up the heater for his benefit. But that didn't stop him
from laughing. Not in the least. "Roy, it's only for nine days. We'll
bag our deer, dress him out, have him converted into jerky and
steaks for shipping home in two. And then we're traveling on
the third and out of this cold. I promise you, we'll get to our
hosting fire station on time, just like Headquarters planned out,
to learn a few tricks from them, okay?"

"I wouldn't call airport fire suppression techniques just a few tricks, Johnny
boy." mumbled Chet Kelly from a back seat. "It's an art all onto itself.
Right, Cap?" he asked, nudging the snoring figure slumping and bouncing
around next to him.

Hank jarred awake. "Huh? Whaa? Are we there yet? Oh,..Uh,..right." he
mumbled sleepily, rubbing his face. "Yeah, Chet. I heard you. No, not
just a few parlor tricks. It's a whole facet of firefighting that all of us back
home have been sorely lacking. For years, the chief says."

Marco yawned from where he was buried in camping gear. "And we're
the lucky ones chosen to be California's ambassadors to the East Coast?"

"Yep." said Hank, raising up in his seat. "We'll get to teach everybody
at home what we're gonna learn from the boys in Patchogue. It was
nice of Battalion Seven's brother to offer to let us stay in his house for
our training days after our hunting trip in the park. I hear it's still
Indian summer down there by the ocean."

Gage protested. "Hey, I take offense to that." he piped up, still smiling
as he drove.

Kelly countered. "No, you don't. You LOVE that season name. Just like
you love the idea that you're dragging the rest of us along on your crazy
idea of an annual ceremonial hunting trip as a side activity to our mandatory
cross training trip."

Johnny just grinned and kept driving.

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Roy finally stopped shivering. He thrust a hand out of
the blanket he was buried in and held up a large red licorice bag.
"Candy, anyone? We don't have to cook this."

Five hands shot into the air eagerly.

While they were munching the cherry red sticks, a familiar noise rippled
into the tightly window closed van.  

Stoker sat up with interest. "Hey, that's a chopper passing by. And it's
not civilian." They all buried faces to the window glass in an attempt to
eyeball the thing. All except Gage, who kept his eyes on the road.

"Our park's got rangers who fly, too." identified Hank. "They must be running
a chore or two right now on the mountain. Maybe hunter headcounts on
all the campsites."

"In these trees?" Roy asked. "They're all still pretty thickly covered
and most of the leaves are still on 'em. They won't be able to see much."

"Maybe they're waiting for nightfall when the campfires start up." said

"Maybe." Mike agreed. Then he spotted it. "Ah, it is a ranger bird. Trailing
a rope on that slope up there above the snowline."

Roy forgot how cold he was. "A rescue in progress?"

"Probably not." said Hank. "Or we would have heard it." he said, aiming a
finger at their radio scanner on the dashboard.  "How far to Park
Headquarters, Johnny, so we can file for our hunting and camping permits?"

"Not far, we're ten miles out." he replied. "We'll just pop in, fill out all the
paperwork, then we can grab some coffee at the souvenir shop before
heading out to our tag site to make camp."

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Joanne steadied her line from the open side of the helicopter and watched
it fall. "Okay, let's get this show on the road."

Ken Baxter steadied the controls when the two women stepped onto
the side rung in their parkas and safetly belts attached to the rope. Joanne
rappelled first, swaying in the strong wind as she descended. Then Terri's
head disappeared down over the edge.

Watching, Ken leaned over the back of his pilot's chair as he felt the helicopter
lift up slightly. ::Good.:: he thought. ::They're both on the ground.::

Carefully, he hit the upreel button on the rigging and retrieved the rope as
he swung around to get a better visual angle. He saw Terri and Joanne
waving at him from a snarl of rocks, snow and fall leaves. He laughed and
waved back and rose to a higher hover where his bladewash wouldn't blind
them with debris.

The girls got out the explosives pack and started working with porta shovels.

Twenty five minutes later, Ken saw the figures reeling out the dentonator wires
across the snow toward the general area of the rock strewn ridge he had
indicated as being a stable refuge to seek. The walkie talkie in his free hand

##It's done, Bluebird Five. All charges secured and set. And I have the primary
timing mechanism armed.## reported Terri Blake. ##Joanne's behind that rock.
See her?##

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Ken looked around, spinning in a circle with a soft twist of his pilot's joy stick. All
he saw were boulders, half shed beech and aspen trees, and snow. Then he
saw  a pink.. ::Rock?:: he startled. Then he blushed and started chuckling as he
looked away self consciously. Keeping his eyes level with a cloud, he thumbed his
mic. "Very funny, you two, very funny." he cracked up. "Now stop your mooning at
me and get serious, will ya? I'm getting hungry for the lunch that's still waiting for us."

The girl's hysterics drowned out his request. "Come on, now. Girls..." He gave up,
laughing in another fit that matched theirs. Then he sighed as the pink dot covered
itself up again in parka pants. "Okay, you got me good. I was caught completely off
guard." he stuttered. It was a lie.  

Satisfied, the two rangers below finished their mocking dance and got back to work.
Eventually, the cold made Terri and Joanne hasten their final checks on the slope.

Terri got back on the air. ##Okay, Ken. Everything's ready. How do things look up
there?## she radioed.

Ken got out a pair of binoculars and located the six orange flags marking the
explosives holes buried in the deep snow. They were in a perfect line under
the snow curling rock ledge in just the right places. "Looks good to me." he
replied. "Are you two dug in?"


"Okay, set your primer for three minutes and only light up on my mark. I'm
going to circle around to be sure that hunters aren't anywhere near us."

##Roger that.## toggled Joanne. She said, eyeing up the slope above them
in apprehension. ##All set and waiting for word.##

A minute later, they could see the chopper returning from his terrain sweep.
##Activate charge.##

Joanne threw a switch which lit the fuses mechanically. The spark buried itself
in the snow as it began to burn and travel on down the line underneath the

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Terri spotted something 100 yards away on the snow field through her binoculars.
She went white with fear. "Oh no! Joanne! The far side connection isn't hooked up
at all! I was laughing so hard, I must have forgotten to wire it down."

Joanne just sighed and smiled. "Don't worry. The one we've got rigged on the
other side'll be more than enough to start the avalanche. It'll roll. Trust me."
she said, pulling up her fur parka ranger's uniform hood onto her head.

Terri wasn't convinced. "But that's just the problem, Joanne. Our near charges will
loosen the snow on our side, but not on the other side. Won't the snow get channeled
directly towards us?"

"It won't. Snow's not like dirt. It'll be okay. Leave it."

"I'll be back in a sec. I can fix it fast enough." Blake said, hopping to her feet.
She began to run out onto the snow field before Joanne could stop her.

Joanne called out her name in warning and failed to tackle her feet in a trip.
"No! Terri.. Get back here now! There's not enough time!"

Up in the air, Ken saw her move and yelled into the radio. "Terri! Stop!
Get out of there. Now!" he ordered.

But Terri had long ago dropped her pack and radio by Joanne in an effort
to run faster. The wind made it hurt to breathe as she ran in the ankle deep
snow and it blew into her eyes, driving ice under her eyelashes. She blinked,
tearing, and ran faster. "There!" she shouted, seeing the line of flags a few
feet away. She hurtled herself onto her stomach and twisted the frozen wires
together. "Got you.." she gasped, and just as swiftly, threw herself back onto
her feet for the dash back over to Joanne and their safe spot.

Then the ridge exploded above her as the demolitions went off.

She was halfway back across the slope when she heard a roar, a deep throated
cascade of sound, begin to vibrate all around her. ::The avalanche!:: she
thought.  A reflex reaction to look up the mountain caused her to trip and fall
hideously onto her face in the soft snow. She ducked reflexively and covered
her head, waiting for the end as the din grew louder as it rumbled rapidly closer.

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Then she heard Ken's voice blasted through the loud speaker. ##Grab the rung!##

Terri looked up and saw the helicopter's foot bars just over her head. She grabbed
it just as the snow pack exploded into motion around her inside of the newly
born avalanche. Squeezing her eyes shut, Terri pounded on the door of the chopper.
"Go! Go now!" She locked her elbow tight and saw the ground fall away below her
as Ken frantically gained altitude. She heard the blades strain with her increased
uneven weight and she felt him battle to counter balance the chopper. She felt
stinging projectiles of ice start to pelt her legs and stomach as the slide deepened
and threatened to drag her free of the runner. Heavy snow clouds smothered her,
shoving and snatching. It grew dark and suffocating.

Terri's thoughts shrank down to a blind tiny plea.. ::Only a few feet more! Only a few feet---::
Terri saw bright sunlight suddenly stab into her eyes and then she knew nothing more.

Sarah Collins squinted at the glare of the hot sun and she shut the shade next
to her bed. ::Whew.. it's hot here in the valley. It's a perfect day to go swimming.::
she thought. Indian summer had bitten hard and the temperatures were climbing
despite the amber and yellow of the fall leaves billowing in the trees outside.

Joey Collins ran out of the bathroom in his swim trunks, trailing a towel, and
chewing on his beloved baseball hat. "Grandma, can I bring my navy ships, too?"

"Well, I don't know.." she said, quite honestly.

"Paul Carnes said I could if I were careful." said the boy, wide eyed, with a toy
in each hand, a well worn frigate and an aircraft carrier moulded in silver plastic.
Sarah could see the navy figures Joey had carefully taped to their decks by
their feet as he pushed them along the wooden floor between them.

"Was careful, dear." She sighed. "All right. I guess so if that nice, young ranger
said you could."

"Don't worry. He did. He even asked to see all of them, too." With an excited
yell, Joey packed his ships in hasty scoops into his battered wooden suitcase,
shut it, and dashed out the door of the cabin dorm noisily.

Sarah shouted after him. "Don't forget to eat lunch in the cafeteria!"

"I won't! Don't worry."

Paul Carnes had been very polite to them and had shown great patience to
Joey's insistent questions about the ranger's base station. ::Even the one
asking about whether or not their helicopters had toilets in back.:: she thought
with amusement.  

Sarah had found out that the Appalachian Center Park was just more than
the usual state park with an assortment of picnic tables, trails and directories.
It was a research base, hospital, heliport, fire base, wildlife management site,
and a national momument, all within 100,000 square acres of mountains,
marshes and partially developed small town island coastline. And it served
525, 000 tourist visitors and New York state residents every year. Their state
of the art camping services was the whole reason for the Collins trip out
east. They both still had some healing to do with the loss of Benjamin
and Sarah figured the best way to do that was to get the boy and herself
back to nature at its roots. She had booked them for a five day expedition
into the mountain valley directly below Snowpoint Ridge which was already
wearing its winter cap of white in the upper elevations.

Sarah smiled at the way it looked. It was shimmering in the heat, framed by
the light orange wavering beech tree leaves rustling in the breeze around
the window. ::Joey does need to get away.:: she decided once more. ::Away
from home and bad memories. Not to forget them, but to recover something
very vital to the boy's well being...:: Unbidden, a tear fell down her cheek
silently. ::And mine.:: she sighed mentally.

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"Joanne, I don't know why you're making such a big deal." Terri shrugged,
as Almstedt taped up her various scrapes and cuts and applied a compress
to the big bruise on her leg. "I was fine. I just tripped, that's all.
Ouch!" she said when her doctor friend washed out a laceration a little
too roughly with sterile saline, and dressings.

"Terri Blake, you were almost killed today. We almost lost you to
that avalanche. If Ken hadn't've been able to steady the chopper--" she
broke off, choking up. "Oh, Terri. You're my best friend. But sometimes
you just don't think." she said exasperated. "You being my best nurse is
besides the point. Lately, you've been proving yourself to be an absolutely
lousy park ranger. Paul's still deciding whether or not to drop you from
the program all together."

"What?! Why? I wasn't killed. So I got a scratch on the leg." she said,
wincing. "What did I do wrong?" the red blond haired girl asked,
wincing at the stitches pulling under the gauze that Joanne had just
taped into place.

"Everything.." Joanne said, peeling off her gloves angrily. "You risked
yourself dangerously for no good reason."

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"I was born in the heart of New York City. Do you expect me to just take
to the great wild outdoors overnight? I'm not used to anything up here.
Not yet anyway." Terri insisted. "Look, I'm sorry. I come from the big
city, working as an inner city R.N. There's no written orders for me
to follow on a chart, okay? I'm not used to that."

"There are spoken ones. Ones that'll keep your butt safe if you choose to
listen. A park ranger is much more than just being a tour guide in a
mounty hat. You have to listen to us, while we're teaching you." Joanne began
to pace, her long dark hair fanning around her brown cherubic eyes.
"That you don't seem to do at all, Terri. Why? Have you got a deathwish
or something? You could have died up there today." she said,
taking a seat again, to recheck her wrapping job.

"This... is just.... a scratch." Terri insisted, finally turning pure iron,
holding her body stiff with anger.

Joanne gave out a sigh of exasperation as she rolled back on
her wheeled stool in the medical cubicle. "A little scratch?" she
exclaimed in disbelief. "Listen Terri, when I got to you, you were
out cold. Your grip on that rung was so tight, it took a muscle relaxant
to pry your fingers and arm free. At first we though you broke your
back, so we boarded you."

"Well I'm fine, okay? Vitals normal remember?" she mocked.

The silence stretched between the two women like sour taffy.

Finally, Joanne whispered. "What were you thinking out there, Terri?
What could possibly be more important than your job?"

Terri snapped, pulling her eyes away from the spot on the ceiling
at which she had been staring unseeing. "That's just it, ok?"

"What is?" Joanne asked, thoroughly frustrated and worried.

"You don't get it, do you?"
Terri's face hardened as she withdrew. "Listen, Joanne.
Get off my back. You're entering VERY personal territory."
she said through clenched teeth. Rapidly, the thirties something
nurse began to pull her gown off before she put her new clothes
and pants back on. "If you guys are through with me, I'm leaving."

"Why are you so mad? I know you're not mad at me.." Joanne
struggled to think. Then it dawned. "Oh, so that's it. You're worried
about your career switch, aren't you?"

Terri brushed impatient red hair away from her scratched, still thawing
face. "What's it to you?" she snapped, suddenly defensive.

"Everything if it's tearing my best friend apart."

Terri's snarling wall crumbled. "Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah.. All right
then. So? So I'm a little bugged. Okay, uh, all right. I AM worried.
You say I'm not doing well in the program...Now that's a little scary."

::A crack in the dam.:: Joanne thought and she smiled. "You gave
up two scholarships for medical practitioner school just for this job,
didn't you?"

"How'd you find out about that? Getting d*mn*d nosy in your old
age, aren't you?"

"Paul told me." Joanne said, the smile failing.

The last of Terri's rage seeped away. She blushed in apology
but didn't say anything.

"You do like what you do now, don't you?" Joanne asked softly.

Terri's face collapsed in misery. "I don't know. I just don't know.."
she sobbed.

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"You must want this very badly to care so much." Terri said,
taking her into a hug. "You gave up your chance at med
school to start a field ranger's job from scratch. Now that's
something in my book. And that's what I'm going to tell Paul."

Blake sniffed, her emotions turning numb, on auto-pilot.
"My head hurts." Terri mumbled, feeling vulnerable and raw.

Dr. Almstedt grinned gently and straightened up in her white
lab coat. "Mine would too, if I had half a mountain land on me.
Now off to bed. You're still shaking. I'll follow you to
your dorm."

"What?" Terri said numbly, as they separated.

"I'm releasing you." she said, taking off her stethoscope
and putting it into her pocket.

"Why? I thought I had to be under observation for
twenty four hours because I was unconscious."
Terri asked, surprised.

"That was psychogenic. Your films are clear. I want
you to think about your life here and how far you want
to go with it. Seriously. Just why did you pick my particular
neck of the woods to play in? That's the burning question
I think." she said, firmly glaring.

Terri hesitated. She had never really thought of why past
the whimsey of not being citybound. Unbidden, her mind
betrayed her. ::Paul Carnes is here.:: it said. But out loud,
Blake replied carefully. "Maybe.. because.. I wanted to
find out whether or not I could handle it and my only
chance was to go right then. A once in a lifetime opportunity.
I would've never forgiven myself if I had let that slip by."

Hearing just the offered false reason, Joanne beamed.
"Exactly." she said, peeling off her white coat.
She pulled the curtains back from around their exam room.
"Let's go."

R.N./ Park Ranger rookie Terri Blake took a long time
before following.

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Chet whistled low in his throat as the gang piled into
the main lodge. "This is some reception area." he said,
tugging his fisherman's cap a little more firmly onto his
head. "Weather radar, automated nature exhibits,
emergency communications dispatch, and a clinical hospital.
I'm impressed." he said, spinning around in a circle.

Paramedic Park Ranger Captain Paul Carnes scoffed
at him from his desk. "Did you think this was just another
log cabin appearing, bare bones, unheated nature center,
complete with zitfaced college students reading off
Smokey the Bear propaganda?"

"Well, no I.."

Paul let Kelly off the hook. "We do that, too." he grinned,
rubbing his gray stubbled rugged chin. "Hi, Welcome
to Appalachian Central. What can I do for you today?
I'm in charge here. The student who normally warms
this seat, is at lunch."

Hank Stanley stepped eagerly forward. "Uh, sorry, didn't
mean to show our ignorance so loudly. We're from  
California, L.A. area. We're going deer hunting for the
next three days. Tag number 70." he said, presenting

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"How many?"

"Six." Roy spoke up.

"Know how to keep yourselves from getting lost
in the woods? How to handle camp fires safely?"

"Absolutely." Cap chuckled as the others did.
"We handle fire every day."

Paul didn't get the joke or the reference. But he
smiled anyway. "Okay." he said, pulling a handy
talkie from a lower desk drawer. " We issue a
short wave radio out to every hunting party. This is.."

" H.T. 100. With a range of ten miles by
repeater tower and a range of a hundred feet
from the local aerial rod powered by a nickle
ion battery." Hank replied.

"Yes, that's right." Carnes said, eyeing up his
visitors with new respect as he took their identification
information down on his forms. Then he noticed
the symbol on all of their licenses. "Oh, well that
explains it. Sorry, fellows. We're not used to
fire and EMS professionals hunting here. We're
usually not that fortunate. We typically get young
upstarts from the city who've never handled a bow
or gun in the woods before, and they go shooting up
the place." He started laughing as he sipped his cold
coffee. "Sometimes, I think we pull more shot hunters
off the mountain than we do whitetails. Doe or buck

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"Buck. We're all sharing the venison and yeah, we
found a guy in town to butcher and prepare the meat
afterwards. He'll ship it home for us, too." Hank said.

"Nice. Any other business scheduled in the park?"

Marco replied. "Not unless a plane crashes here."

Paul's brow wrinkled at that answer and he actually
looked up from his electric typewriter.

Stoker elaborated as he picked up park maps,
trail pamphlets and guidelines from the table
next to them. "We're crosstraining fire prevention
at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma
all next week."

"Oh, at Islip." Paul said. "That's just over the mountain.
Sure as the crow flies. It's right on the ocean."


Carnes finished up their paperwork and handed them
their issued radio. "Use channel eight for any questions.
Our dispatcher will forward you to any services you might
need, anything from search and rescue to local tour guide.
Just call. 24/7. We even offer hunters flights by helicopter
overseeing their tag area's terrain."

Gage spoke up. "Uh, we won't need that. I'm an expert tracker."

"So you say." said Chet, teasing.

"Well I am." Johnny insisted, frowning at Kelly.

Paul Carnes expression was professionally polite as he
ignored their antics.

Lopez wondered. "Any restaurants here?"

"The cafeteria, next building over. Food's served from
noon to two and then six to eight every night. There's
even a pool hall and indoor swimming park." Carnes replied

"Cool! Cap can we-" Kelly began.

Hank cut him off without even moving his head.
"Nope. There's camp to set up. If we have time after
we get our buck and bring him into town, then you can go."

"Aww, Cap."

"Just you shush." Hank said, holding up a serious finger.
"If you go now, you won't know where we are. Stoker's
got all our maps. And I know you don't know how to read
forest ones."

Kelly sighed like a kid denied candy.

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Just then, the door connecting the tunnel leading to
the local hospital opened and two women wandered into the
lodge. One of them was limping. Johnny's practiced paramedic
eye noticed the fresh injuries and their ranger clothes.

"Ooo.. looks painful." he commented. "What happened to

Paul looked up with undisguised relief at Terri Blake and
Joanne Almstedt. "The younger one thought she'd become
a Hollywood stunt double during a demolition exercise
to loosen packed in snow. The one holding her arm,.. is
her doctor."

"Doctor?" Johnny startled, the interest in his eyes
suddenly sparking.

Paul just sighed, seeing another tourist Romeo encounter
in the making. He gestured to them. "Come on. I'll introduce
you. I have to grab their reports anyway. Hey Joanne! Terri!
Wait up!" he circled round his desk, picking up his portable
radio on multiple channel scan.

The two women halted at the glass entryway doors and turned

Image of paul.jpg Image of flightjoanne.jpg Image of flightterri.jpg

Beside Johnny, Chet breathed in expansively. "I think I'm in love."

Gage shot him an irritated glance. "Learn to be a gentleman, okay?"

"Oh, and you are?" Kelly scoffed instantly, only partially harsh.

The gang wearing camping gear tramped forward to meet
the still flight tunic'd park ranger women.

"This is going to be a wonderful vacation, Roy. Just like I said."
Gage told Desoto, smacking him on his arm as he walked
ahead eagerly.

"Only for some of us, pal." He trailed off when he saw that
his partner was already long gone. "Good luck." he offered
belatedly. DeSoto had finished rubbing his tired eyes when
he finally joined him and the others at their side.

Image of mountainlake.jpg Image of gageroyshockstreetclotheskitchen.jpg Image of rangerscabin.jpg

From:  patti k (  
Sent: Sun 11/23/08 1:49 AM
Subject: Hit and Miss

Paul Carnes preceded the group of men he had just learned were
firefighters over to the actively fussing Joanne Almstedt and the still
slow moving Terri Blake under her supporting arm.

Reaching out, Carnes lifted Blake's chin, appraisingly analyzing her injuries.
"Terri, so nice of you to not call me as soon as you could." Paul
smiled through tightly polite teeth. His sugared glare also chided
Joanne the doctor for not instigating the same courtesy. "I love
being left in the--- "

Terri cringed self consciously and shrugged her shoulders. "Joanne says
I'm fine enough, or I wouldn't be up and walking around." she coughed,
grimacing as her muscles twitched underneath her light clothes. She
met his eyes only reluctantly. ::Is he mad at me?:: she thought.
::Oh, please, don't be mad.:: thought the red haired student park
ranger/nurse."I'm really really sorry, Paul.  Do you really believe
I expected to become part of the mountain when I got up this morning?
I only wanted to climb it and blow up a few bits like the rest of
the team."

"Let's just say we'll be discussing all of this later over a power lunch or two,
hmm? Oh, look. Guests!" Captain Carnes warned her as Chet Kelly
and Johnny Gage got within earshot. "Terri,.. Joanne... Meet a fire and med
crew from California. They're going to try their luck bowhunting whitetails."

Terri and Joanne both gave the new arrivals weakly enthusiastic smiles when
they caught the glint of male interest from the first two in the group.

A dark haired, copper skinned young man stepped forward.
"Hi there. I'm Johnny Gage, and this is my friend er.. actually, more of
a good coworker--"

"...Best pal." piped up Kelly instantly, holding out his hand eagerly in
front of Terri's scratched up free one.

"...Chet Kelly." Gage finished brightly game, despite his veiled irritation
at being beaten out of a handshake.

"Charmed fellas." Dr. Almstedt said, reaching over Terri's reaching fingers to
intercept the curly haired fireman's greeting grip instead. "Uh,.. have fun
in the park, on us, okay? Maybe later Ken Baxter, our pilot, can give you
the flying tour."  she added in a rush, abruptly turning Terri around with
her to started heading back over to the dormitory.

"Sure. Sure.. don't let me stop you." said Kelly in a chivalrous beam.
"I see you're kinda busy and--"

Image of paulmedmad.jpg Image of joanneterrigrab.jpg Image of gagecutepaisley.jpg Image of chetconcernedfishingvest.jpg

"Here!" Gage said warmly. "Let me help you with the doors ladies..." he said,
grandly, stepping out hastily with a gentlemanly bow as he opened them for
the pair. "Eh heh. Have a nice day. See you later perhaps?" he suggested,
maneuvering around Kelly's front spot.

Joanne thwarted Terri's curious replyback with a poke into a sore rib. "There's
always that chance...." she blurted as they disappeared into the corridor.

The glass doors closed behind them. " spring.." Almstedt chuckled.

Terri protested, trying to look around Joanne's shoulder. "Hey, that was
rude. And they seem like really nice guys, too."

Almstedt was firm. "You're my patient and we're still in the middle of
a transport between facilities. Flirt all you like in the morning..."

Terri's face fell and she scoffed. "Psssft."

"....with Paul."

Blake's jaw dropped and she paled more than what her injuries attributed to.
"Wh-- You know about me liking him?!" And she sagged, stunned.

Laughing, Joanne kept her on her feet. "Terri, you've been broadcasting
that message to the whole team without a radio,.. for weeks now. It's far
from being a secret admiration. I think the only person who doesn't know
it is.."

"...our captain himself." sighed Terri.

Joanne stopped their progress in front of Blake's dormitory door. She
took her name tag hanging on its cord and swiped the magnetic lock open
derisively. "It's not the end of the world yet, or even the day if you shower
fast enough.."

"Yes, it is.." Blake pouted. "I'm afraid I'm not hungry anymore."

"Only for food." Joanne winked, correcting her.

Blake made a face. "Get outta here." she said, entering and crooking
her thumb. She slammed the door in her friend's face teasingly. With

"I'm gone.." Doctor Almstedt chuckled, heading back the way she had
come to go give Carnes her medical report on Terri. "Looks like
you're fully recovered." she smirked.

From:  patti k (  
Sent: Tue 11/25/08 4:18 AM
Subject: Starting Gate...

It was dawn at the International Long Island MacArthur Airport in  
Ronkonkoma, New York. A brisk chill breeze was blowing
over the runways and open spaces of ISLIP from the ocean,
but the morning was far from quiet locally.

*Honk! HonnnnKKKKkkkk!* Airport Rescue Firefighter Chris
Rorchek slammed the fire van's truck horn once again
at the guard shack at the gate surrounding the runway field.

Image of airportrescuevan.jpg Image of islipplaneflyoff.jpg Image of airportguardshack.jpg

His bumper was only inches from nudging the lowered brightly
striped and light winking gate arm.

Beside him, and belted in the bright yellow mobile van, was
his brother and fellow firefighter Ted Rorchek, who chuckled.
"Easy, Chris. It'll take all day to get through if you get too

Chris, a large, towering brown haired, hazel eyed man with
a crew cut, glared at his younger brother. "Geez, Ted. This is the
state of New York. How can anybody from here come on too strong,
huh? We're all real direct and we yell. It's how we communicate with
each other." Irritated, he reached behind him into a duffle bag and
pulled out another strapped square satchel to put into his lap. "Hey buddy!
Come on already! We're not strangers here for Pete's sake! What part
of the logo on the side of our truck don't you understand?!" He
shouted through the wind shield.

Ted laughed again. "In this light, you can't see anything yet. And I'll
just bet the darkness is still making us look washed out. We could very
well be that lost passenger taxi van he thinks we are."

"That's his problem!" Chris boomed. "He must be real blind if
he can't see the lightbar silhouette on top." He grumbled, slumping
into his belted seat. He sighed hugely and rubbed his hungry face.
"Now you know why I hate going off property on business errands
for dad. We have these lame-brain outer gate guys to deal with
every morning."

"You should be used to this then. He's probably only carrying
out his ordered procedures, step by step. And besides, Dad
needs us to pick up some of the more nitty grittier chores of
fire chief for him while he gets set for our guests coming in a
few days." Ted said.

"You mean those California fire boys? I don't like 'em already.
I mean, how can anybody who's never seen snow handle
fighting fire in this cold?"

"It hasn't snowed yet." Ted countered mildly, still grinning.

"No, but it will, soon after they get here." Chris insisted.
"That's what the tower said."

"What's that have to do with anything? Hot or cold, these
are L.A. County firefighters coming to train with us. They
see fifteen times the business we do." Ted said, admiration
stars in his eyes. "All we get are terminal building medical calls
and small aircraft emergency landings on a regular basis."

"Maybe, but we're good." Chris pointed a finger at him.

"Yeah, we are. But so are they, so don't judge them before
the fire engine's left the bay.  It won't take long to acquaint them
to our kind of equipment and fire protocols. Our automated stuff's
probably gonna seem weird to them." Ted suggested.

Chris's eyes mirrored a little boy's fondness. "Yeah, supertankers,
and high energy thermal suits.." he chuckled, instantly happy.

Image of tedchristruckdrive.jpg Image of airportcontroltowersunset.jpg

Then the older brother sat upright when the guard put down the phone
receiver back into its cradle. "Ooo. Ooo. He's gonna do it. He's gonna
let us in faster than fifteen minutes this time."

Ted broke off his speech about fellow firefighters as he, too,
held bated breath as they both watched the security guard
move inside the shack.

Then the phone rang again. Faintly. In the shack.

"Noo. no. no. no. no!" Chris chided as the guard's distracted
hand reached up to answer it.

Oblivious, the guard picked it up after only a half second's
scrutinizing glance at the airport vehicle still waiting outside.

Ted chuckled. "OhHhhhhhhhh.., bad luck." Then his face
fell when he caught a slight avoiding smile blossoming on
the security guard's mouth. "Wait a minute. That's gotta be
Mike Porter working us, man. Just gotta be." And his own anger
started rising.

"From the tower?" Chris asked, incredulous.

"Yeah. He IS the head air traffic controller tonight, isn't he?"

Chris was already ignoring Ted. He was glaring at
the faintly dawnlit guard shack again. "I should call the station,
right now, and have them buzz the shack with a spot light. That'll
wake him up."

Ted scoffed, and thunked his head against his rolled up side
window in resignation. "Bad idea. Then he'll initiate his
unknown emergency protocols and lock down that gate arm
permanently.Think of us from his point of view, Chris. I--"

Chris eyeballed Ted firmly. "Do we look like civilians to you?"

Ted sighed, and angled his tawny light brown feathered hair,
glancing significantly at their casual jackets, shirts and blue jeans
under the dome light they had turned on in order to be face
visible. "Yep."

Chris set both fists onto the steering wheel of the van and
just sighed with a look of long suffering. "Next time, we wear
turn out coats."

"We don't have any extra, remember? That's why we went into
town today, to requisition a few more." Ted answered.

Chris turned down the airport control tower's radio chatter on their
receiver band embedded into the fire rescue truck's dashboard.
"Don't remind me. Then I'll remember that Dad's the chief who

"..asked--" Ted interjected patiently.

Chris didn't even hear him. " to play supplyman for our soon
to arrive warm weather freaks--"


" they'll be nice and comfortable playing with our fire hoses
and trucks."

"That's the spirit!" Ted winked, happy with the slight positive Chris
injected into his running commentary. "You remembered your
promise to be more..." he sucked in his breath appraisingly ".. uplifting."

"That's only because I lost that bet with Al." Chris groused.

"Best bet you ever lost." Ted said quickly, straight faced.

Chris pursed his thick lips. "Yeah? Well Al's not here." he said,
squaring off his still irritated jaw. "I'm gonna reiterate our STAFF
position on an ape level that even THAT guy out there, can understand."
His foot revved on the gas pedal.

"Don't do it, Chris.. I'm warning you.." Ted said, gripping the dashboard.

Barely visible, the security officer in front of them had turned his back
on the two ARFF men while he talked on the phone to Mike Porter while
he fake checked his information written down on the slateboard he was
holding in the other hand.

Chris Rorchek finally did it. He flicked on their reds and hit the siren wailer.

The guard inside the shack immediately dropped the phone and threw up
the gate, responding automatically to his training.  Chris shot by
the guard shack at high speed and pretended to head for the terminal as if
on an emergency call, but then veered off back towards the runway fire
station a few seconds later once they were out of sight around a taxiing
jet plane.

They were immediately hailed by Gene Skidwell, Mike Porter's boss, on
radio. ##3-22-5, this is Tower. We copy your active emergency. Do you
need runway escort to the terminal?##

Image of anirunwayjoke.gif Image of firetruckgiffy.gif Image of airportcontrollerchief.jpg

Ted flicked their lights to black and muted their siren quickly.

Chris started laughing. Loud and long. "He's fast, that one. I hope Porter
saw us, too." he said, slowing their speed. "Man, Skidwell must have
binoculars glued to his eyeballs if he noticed us way out here."

Ted hissed. "Shhhh!" and snatched for the radio. "Uh, Tower, this is
3-22-5. That's a negative. We were a.m. equipment check per back
on property protocols.." he covered.

##Copy band. Non Code Red. Tower out.##

Chris was still laughing at making his little brother lie on radio as
they pulled onto the runway straightaway that led to their firestation's
tarmack, two minutes later.

Subject: Reversal
From:  patti k (  
Sent: Fri 11/28/08 11:36 AM

Chris Rorchek deftly opened the black pack he had gathered into
his lap and pulled out a fully loaded thirty five mm camera, with a wicked
telephoto lens. "Ted, drive for me here for a sec, okay?" And he let go
of the steering wheel with both hands.

"Ahh!" his younger brother exclaimed. He quickly panicked
as he took over, the fire van weaving badly for a moment.

"What the heck are you doing now, Chris? Geez! Trying to get
us to hit a runway marker or something?"

"No," Chris replied obliquely scholar. "I've got a great shot
here and I'm not going to miss it." he said from behind his
camera lens. "Do me a favor and pull up on the east side
of the stationhouse, right under the security camera."

"Where? I don't see anything that's even remotely snappable."
he said, distractedly turning his head around in a circle.
"Oh, wait. Wow, what a sunrise.."

"Yeah.." said Chris, not really listening. "Ain't she a beauty?"
he sighed, actually taking pictures of something else.
"And she's always there." he remarked.

Image of airportrunways.jpg Image of camera.jpg Image of ff8.jpg

Ted immediately frowned. "The sun? No it isn't."
he said as he deftly braked the fire station van smartly
under the camera from where he was sitting in the passenger's

"Thanks. Here is just perfect, bro." Chris said eagerly.
Then he remembered what he had heard from Ted.
"Not the sky. That plane. The one that's always there
that looks like Air Force One. I'm planning on having
a little fun this afternoon with some serious payback for a
thorn we both have digging in our sides." Chris chuckled, grinning
evilly as he snapped eagerly away at the full sized jet after making
sure his camera was the same view as the security camera's that was
scanning above them.

"Mike Porter..." he guessed correctly.
Ted glanced from camera to camera and out again at the mysterious
jet glowing in the rising sunlight in dismay. "You know, I'm not even
gonna ask what you've got planned. This is stupid." and he slammed
his foot down on the gas pedal.

Chris's head bounced off the seat back and he had to fight
to not drop his camera.. "Hey.... I'm not finished yet!"

Ted screeched them away from the spot and around the building to
the firestation's main bay doors. "We're late." he explained. "Or do
you want to miss breakfast?"

"We can always EXPLAIN to dad and the others why we were late."
Chris said.

Ted grinned dangerously. "Oh, really? Do you want to spill the beans
about the shack guard being in cahouts with a guy we know in the flight
tower, who was messing with us?" he said, not taking his passenger's
eyes off the service road in front of them as he drove.

"Yeah.." Chris shrugged, going over his camera protectively to make
sure it hadn't been damaged by the jarring he took from the sudden
acceleration. "No problem there. Why DON'T we tell Dad, the chief?"
he asked in agreeable mock.

Ted's mouth flopped open as he deftly moved the fire van to the
front of the station and hit the switch to activate the garage opener.
"What if Dad decides to request a video review of our little incident?
And sees that fake Code 3 stunt you did in order to get us through the
gate a little faster?" Ted asked.

Chris giggled, very pleased with himself. "He'd probably laugh." he smirked.

"No he wouldn't. He'd yell. Real loud." Ted led on, trying to get his
older brother to see the gist of that particular outcome. He pulled the truck
forward into its usual spot next to the massive lime green foam tankers
resting on either side of them.

Image of ff21.jpg Image of airportbay.jpg Image of ff7.jpg

Chris just blinked, not comprehending. "Well," he finally said. "No surprise
there. He's a New Yorker, too, little brother."

"The rest of the gang would hear it, Chris." Ted finally clarified.
"And I for one, don't want to be the butt of everybody else's teasing jokes
just because you decided to have a little fun at my expense out there." he glared,
pointing. Then he got out and slammed the door in his brother's face.
"And stop making references to my physical height. It's not funny." said
the tiny, small boned athletic firefighter through the windshield's glass.

Chris rolled down his driver's side window, totally surprised.
"I meant that in another sense. You know, as in younger?"

"I'm sure you did.." said Ted, fuming, heavily sarcastic.

Chris sat there and shrugged, puzzled, still camera heavy in one hand.
"Hey, okay, nobody has to know about our little gate entry headaches. That
can be our own little secret." he insisted, straight faced.

Ted just threw upset hands at him and walked away without looking back,
making for the firebay's kitchen and the rich heady smells of food
coming from there.

Chris, still trying to make light of Ted's new bad mood, took rapid pictures
of his brother's retreating back. The echoes of the shutterfly rocketting around
the vehicle bay failed to regain Ted's lost attention. So Chris stopped wasting

The big fireman ran a tongue over his teeth thoughtfully. "Now that's a
milestone. He's cranky and I'm not." he chuckled. "Hmph." he grunted in
mild amusement. He got out of the van and headed for a nearby closet, the
one he had turned into his own personal little dark room.

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   The Fire Within
   Movie One
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