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Raging Fire!

Fire II: Raging Fire!
Vickie T. — 24 Sep 1998, 8:47 PM

"Don't worry," Lee-Marie said, as she pressed JTM's reins into Chakotay's hand. "I'll get a ride back out to the Delta Q in the buggy with B'Elanna." She kissed Chakotay's cheek and then murmered a silent prayer as he mounted JTM and turned away. "Please God, don't let anything happen to my fine stud. Oh, and please keep Chakotay safe, too." "Hey," she reasoned, "Chakotay can take care of himself, but my poor JTM may need divine intervention to get through this."

As he rode toward the gathering group of riders, Chakotay noticed Cowgirl Vickie, already changed into chaps and boots, mounting up to join him. He smiled as he watched her bid farewell to her new beau, Mr. Magnum. Chakotay had fond memories of the time he and Cowgirl Vickie had been, well, good friends, and he was happy to see that Mr. Magnum appeared to feel considerable affection towards the mistress of the Circle V.

Thankfully, with Chakotay's attention being occupied first by Lee-Marie and then by Cowgirl Vickie and Mr. Magnum, he did NOT notice his lovely daughter bidding a fondling fond farewell to Tom Janeway. By the time he saw B'Elanna running towards him, Tom had already moved off down the street. "Pa!," B'Elanna called out, "You be careful out there." "I will honey," he replied, leaning down from his saddle to give her quick hug. "And B'Elanna, in case I didn't say so earlier, you looked like a real lady out there on the dance floor tonight...just like your momma." B'Elanna hugged him a little tighter. "Thanks, Pa," she said, wiping away a tear. "See you back at the Delta Q."

Chakotay joined Tom and the rest of the riders and headed out of town. Their plan was to head for the closest end of the fire off the slopes of Big Rock Candy Mountain, fan out, and then ride a long diagonal up the face of the fireline, herding any cattle they encountered along in front of them. If they could push the herds across the south tributary of the Little Coffee, the animals would be safe from the fire. Amazingly, given the haste of the riders and the darkness, the group proceeded without mishap across the open plain. The light from the moon and stars shining in the clear night sky was a blessing to the riders and their mounts.

Fire II: Raging Fire II
Vickie T. — 24 Sep 1998, 8:49 PM

By the time the riders reached the first swellings of the foothills that seemed to anchor the far end of the fireline, all the cattle had been gathered up except those of the Delta Q. Ice Box Canyon lay less than a quarter of a mile ahead. Most of the group continued to push the herd towards the Little Coffee, while a handful of riders, led by Tom and Chakotay, broke off and headed for Ice Box Canyon. The horsemen were relieved to discover that, although the fire was fast approaching the canyon's entrance, the cattle inside the canyon were still grazing calmly. It should be no problem to herd them out of the canyon and toward the Little Coffee with the rest of the cattle.

A few of the riders took up positions outside the canyon's mouth to turn the exiting cattle away from the fire and toward the river. The remaining riders slowed to a walk as they eased their way into the canyon along the fringes of the herd. Once they worked their way around behind the cattle, they began shouting and slapping their ropes to get the beasts moving. Maybe it was just good luck, maybe it was a little of that divine intervention Lee-Marie had been praying for, but the Delta Q herd moved toward the mouth of Ice Box Canyon without incident.

Suddenly, Chakotay, bringing up the rear with Tom, pulled JTM to a sliding stop. "What?," Tom asked, spinning his horse around to stand next to Chakotay. "Look. Up there. A flash of light." "There, up on the bluff." Chakotay looked at Tom. "I've been thinking about this fire as we've been riding tonight. There's no way this could be natural or even an accidental fire. This range fire was deliberately set, and by more than just a few people." Tom replied grimly, "You're right about that. Maybe we need to see who's up there on the bluff." The two men rode to the base of the hill then dismounted, intending to proceed the rest of the way on foot. They had moved only a few feet up the slope when suddenly, the ground fell away beneath their feet and they began to fall straight down into the darkness.