A ruthless industrialist hatches a devious plot to steal the secrets of International Rescue. Meanwhile Scott wrestles with a deep personal dilemma.
Thirty Miles From Madrid
Ten Minutes Later
Benson smiled to himself as he pulled his stolen car into the parking area of the abandoned service station. He got out of the car and headed over to where he had earlier left his van.
It took only moments to reach his van and climb into the front. Opening the glove compartment, he took out a small personal computer and, with a soft smile on his face, composed an email for the personal attention of Alexander Satoza. A quick command sent the electronic message on its way to Manhattan. That's done, Benson thought. O/ne last loose end to tie up, then I can head to the rendezvous point. /
Climbing out, he went around to the van's sliding side door and opened it. For a few moments he rummaged through the boxes and crates stored there, quietly swearing to himself. Note to self, he thought. S/ort back of van out at first opportunity. /
Finally, he found what he was looking for. Holding the thermal grenade in one hand, he jumped out of the van and made his way over to the stolen car. Grinning, he pulled the pin on the grenade and tossed it in through the smashed rear window. Mentally counting down the seconds, he ran back to his van. The grenade detonated and the car exploded into a massive fireball.
Benson looked at the burning, already half-gutted car for a moment, then grinned evilly and turned away. Walking to the front of his van he closed the side door, climbed into the driver's seat, and started the engine. Calmly he drove away, heading for a distant, abandoned military airstrip where he would rendezvous with a Satoza Enterprises cargo plane. He was completely satisfied now that all evidence that he had ever been in Spain had been wiped out.
Trans-Continental Chemical Plant
That Same Time
Virgil Tracy sighed in relief as his laser cutter finished slicing through the thick, heavy metal door - the second he'd come across - that blocked his path. A swift kick sent the door crashing to the ground with a loud clang. The way into the control bunker was now open and, mindful of the fact that the edges of the hole were still fiercely warm from laser fire, Virgil carefully ducked through into the bunker.
Standing up straight, Virgil returned his laser cutter to its place in his emergency kit. Then he turned his attention to his helmet HUD as it pulled up the control bunker's preloaded layout, and he carefully took in the details.
The bunker was a two story cylindrical structure. The ground floor - where he was at the moment - was mostly given over to engineering areas and storage areas for portable equipment. The upper floor was where the staff would be. That level was laid out in a series of concentric circles. Immediately against the outer wall were staff recreational areas, next was a ring of offices, and finally, at the core, was the control room.
With the aid of the map, Virgil located the closest stairwell to that top level. Better check in with Scott first though, Virgil thought. It's taken longer than I thought to get in here.
"Virgil to Mobile Control," he said into his helmet radio.
"I read you, Virgil," Scott responded immediately, a note of relief in his voice. "You took your time checking in. I was beginning to worry."
"Sorry," Virgil replied. "But I ran into some unexpected obstacles on the way in. Both the top and bottom of the ladder well were blocked off by heavy metal doors. The locks were electronic and since there is no main power, neither would open. I had to burn my way through with the laser cutter."
"Oh, I see. I didn't know about the doors. You in the bunker now?"
"Yes. I'm about to head upstairs."
"How's the Firefly doing with the fire?" Virgil asked as he headed towards the stairs.
"Between the Firefly and the fire department's hoses, progress is good," Scott replied. "Thirty percent of the fire has been extinguished. The Firefly is currently returning to Thunderbird Two to refill the dicetylene tank."
Virgil nodded, expecting that. One of Firefly's few weaknesses was the comparative small size of its dicetylene tank, a design flaw that Brains was working to resolve. Until it was corrected, they had made a point to carry a large tank, full of dicetylene, in Thunderbird Two's pod, ready for mid-mission refills.
"Glad to hear that that part of the mission is going so well," Virgil replied, reaching the stairwell. He pushed the heavy fire door to the stairs open and slipped easily through the gap.
"As am I," Scott answered. "We'll have this particular beast slain in no time at this rate. Where are you now?"
"Just going up the stairs now," Virgil said as he started climbing the steps. "As soon as I find the staff I'll escort them back to the Mole."
"F-A-B, Virgil. I've finally found out how many staff were on duty in the bunker today."
"How many are there, Scott?"
"F-A-B. Knowing how many people I have to find certainly makes my job that little bit easier."
"No problem." The transmission from Mobile Control ended with a soft bleep as Scott broke the connection from his end. As the bleep sounded, Virgil stepped out onto the upper level of the control bunker.
Virgil paused and checked his helmet map, locating the corridor that would take him to the control room. He began walking in that direction, idly noting the staff facilities that he passed. He noticed both a games room and a small but very well equipped gym, similar to the one on Thunderbird Five. The presence of such facilities startled him for a moment, then he recalled that Trans-Continental Chemicals, and its sister company, Trans-Continental Airlines, were well known to be very supportive and caring for their staff, treating them almost like family. It was a something that Dad had always done with Tracy Industries, and others had copied when they saw the results.
It took Virgil only a few moments to make his way to the control room. To his relief, he found that all six staff members were in the room. All were thankfully still on their feet though they were completely caked in sweat from the rising heat levels in the bunker.
After a moment one of them spotted him and called out to the others. Everyone turned to look at him, and in seconds he was surrounded by them, all talking in rapid fire Spanish. Normally Virgil could understand and speak Spanish perfectly well - it was the only foreign language that he knew. But the six workers were speaking all at once and so fast that he couldn't quite catch what they were saying.
"Calm down, calm down," Virgil replied. "One at a time please. One at a time." Slowly the workers all went quiet, looking a little sheepish at having given him the equivalent of Twenty Questions.
"That's better," Virgil continued. "Now then, my name is Virgil and, as you've guessed, I'm from International Rescue. I've come to get you out of here."
"Thank God you came," shift supervisor Pedro Avera said. "We were beginning to give up hope of getting out of here alive. What about the fire?"
"Other members of my organisation are in the process of dealing with that," Virgil replied. "Now I need you to confirm something: our information indicates that the six of you are the only ones here. Is that correct?"
"Yes, now," Pedro replied sadly. "We had called in one of our maintenance engineers, Miguel Lapaz, to investigate some odd readings coming from chemical reactor three. He had just started to look at it when the reactor exploded."
"I'm sorry," Virgil replied, genuinely sympathetic, knowing that Miguel would have been killed by the blast. Still the mention of the reactor exploding confused him slightly; modern reactors, both nuclear and chemical, were incredibly safe, with multiple safety and shut down systems built in. One blowing up was almost unheard of.
"So am I," Pedro answered. "Miguel was a good man. But mourning his death can wait. You said you have come to get us out of here?"
"That's right," Virgil confirmed. "If you will all kindly follow me, please."
"No problem there, my friend," Pedro replied with a smile, wishing he could see the face of the man who'd come to save them instead of a featureless silver visor.
Virgil smiled back even though he knew that Pedro and the others wouldn't see it. Then he turned on his heel in almost military manner, and led the way out of the control room. Pedro mentioned for his colleagues to follow. As shift supervisor it was his duty to see that they all got out okay. Only when they were all out of the room did he himself leave, following them and the man from International Rescue to safety.
Captain Fernandez smiled as he read the report he had just been handed. They were coming; he hadn't thought that they would be able to. But two of them were coming now to assist in putting out the chemical plant fire. It was all that could be spared but still, it would make a hell of a dent in the fire.
Still smiling, he approached where Scott was sitting, studying Mobile Control's screens, to give him the good news.
"Scott," he said. Hearing his name, Scott turned away from the screens - which tracked Firefly's progress back towards the still burning parts of the chemical plant - to look over at Enrique.
"Yes, Enrique?" Scott asked, wondering to himself why Enrique was smiling that way. It seemed at odds with the deadly seriousness of the situation raging outside the control tent.
"I have some good news, Scott," Enrique replied. "Two firefighting aircraft, each one loaded with ten thousand gallons of chemical fire suppressant, are on their way here. ETA twelve minutes."
"What!" Scott exclaimed, startled and delighted by the news. He knew that all the firefighting aircraft that Europe had been very busy, dealing with all the wild land fires that were burning here and there along the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The whole area was tinder dry, having not seen rain for months, so fire was inevitable. John had been keeping a close eye on the situation from space just in case it required International Rescue's assistance.
"That's great news," Scott continued, overcoming his momentary shock. "I'll calculate the optimum drop points for them, ready for their arrival."
"I'll tell them to expect co-ordinates from you," Enrique replied, moving away to speak to the fireman running their communications set up. For his part, Scott turned back to Mobile Control and got to work, using all the data he had available and computer projections to work out the optimum drop points.
Invisible to others behind his helmet visor, a smile graced Scott's face as he worked. The two incoming aircraft - part of a pan-European organisation for fighting wildfires, founded five years ago - were real heavy-duty reinforcements for them. With their massive cargoes of ready-to-spray fire suppressant, the aircraft would be all they would need to get this fire out once and for all. If all went well, then this mission would soon be over.
Eight Minutes Later
Virgil carefully checked the seat restraints on Pedro and the other five control bunker staff. The multi-point seat restraints used in the passenger/cargo compartment of the Mole could be a nuisance to operate at times. It wouldn't be the first time that someone they'd rescued hadn't been able to fasten them properly. Thankfully Pedro and his companions seemed to have done theirs up correctly.
Satisfied, Virgil stood up and went to the Mole's control cabin. With easy, athletic grace he settled into the pilot's seat and did up his own restraint before turning on the radio.
"Mole to Mobile Control," he said into his helmet microphone, which - through a variation of bluetooth technology - had now linked into the Mole's radio system.
"Go ahead, Virgil," Scott answered immediately. Virgil's hands danced over the controls with easy familiarity, starting the Mole's engines.
"The control bunker staff are all secured in the back, Scott," Virgil replied. "I am about to return to the surface with them."
"F-A-B, Virgil. I'll alert the paramedics."
"F-A-B," Virgil acknowledged as he manipulated the throttles, moving the Mole into reverse. For a moment nothing happened, then the mighty drilling machine began moving again. This time heading backward into the tunnel it had bored earlier, beginning its journey back up to the surface.
Barely two minutes after Virgil broke off communications with him, a bleeping alert from Mobile Control caught Scott's attention. He turned away from the paramedic he had just alerted. The sensor feed from Thunderbird Five had picked up the two firefighting aircraft approaching the city from the southeast. They would be at the drop points in barely two minutes. With a quick command to his console, he opened a communications channel to the approaching aircraft.
"International Rescue Mobile Control to approaching aircraft, respond please," he said into his helmet radio.
"Mobile Control, this is fire aircraft JL47, Captain Paul Tanner commanding. Reading you loud and clear," a warm English voice responded instantly.
"Captain Tanner, I have the drop co-ordinates for you," Scott answered, his hands dancing across his console. "I'm sending them to you now."
"Understood," Tanner replied and went silent for a few moments. "Co-ordinates received. We're over the city now, ready to commence our run on your instruction."
"Commence your run."
"Roger. Commencing run now."
Gordon grinned as the remorseless, relentless force of the dicetylene streams snuffed out another part of the blaze.
This part of the plant was a network of pipes, small storage tanks, and low slung buildings, with the odd pumping station thrown in for good measure. Everything was well ablaze, especially the buildings; some of them had already collapsed. Those few that had collapsed were now mountains of smouldering rubble, the flames snuffed out by their individual falls.
As the Firefly began moving forward again, heading towards the next blazing building, Gordon directed the cannons to spray dicetylene over the closest mound of smouldering rubble, cooling it down. As he did so, a movement visible out of the corner of his caught his attention and he looked to the east to see what was going on.
Two aircraft were coming in over the plant on what looked like a bombing run. The aircraft swooped out of the smoke cloud like a pair of avenging angels, and from the belly of each a fine, greyish-white mist began to fall. It plummeted to earth with a silent gracefulness, almost like snow. But the effect when the mist touched the fire was very different; it acted like a thick, smothering shroud. Dirty yellow-orange flames that had been roaring a hundred feet into the air shrank, flickered fitfully, then vanished as if they had never been.
Then the two aircraft passed overhead and Gordon's vision disappeared as the greyish white mist coated the visor of his suit, leaving him with only the HUD. Reaching up with one gloved hand, he tried to wipe the stuff away and discovered to his surprise that it was now solid and, through the glove, almost felt like ice. He had to physically scrape it off, which took both hands and a good few minutes work.
Finally he could see again and saw that the fire, which had been raging all around them, was out. Everything was completely coated in a thick layer of semi-translucent, greyish-white material that glimmered slightly, almost as if it were ice but it obviously was not. Whoa! Now that's impressive for a single bombing run, Gordon thought. Whatever this stuff is, it is obviously very good at what it is meant to do, just like our dicetylene is good at its job.
"Now that's impressive," he said out loud.
"Indeed it is," Jeff agreed over the two-way link between the driver and turret operator. "I better call in to Scott, and see what he wants us to do now."
"F-A-B, Dad," Gordon replied.
Scott smiled as Thunderbird Five's sensor feed revealed the effects of the air drops. To all intents and purposes, the remaining fire had been extinguished. Only a single hotspot remained and it was fading rapidly. It was within reach of two of the fire brigade's platforms and thus already was being bombarded with multiple streams of foam.
"Mobile Control to fire aircraft JL47," he said into his helmet microphone. "Excellent drops; the fire is out."
"Fire aircraft JL47 to Mobile Control. Thanks. Glad we could help," Captain Tanner responded immediately. "We're returning to base now."
"Understood," Scott answered, repressing the almost burned in instinct to respond with "F-A-B", knowing that Captain Tanner and his aircrew would not understand him. "Have a good flight home."
"Same to you, buddy," Tanner replied. "Same to you." Scott grinned and broke the connection, a moment before another communications channel came to life.
"Firefly to Mobile Control," Jeff called over the radio.
"Go ahead, Jeff," Scott replied, already knowing what his father was calling about.
"The fire is out as far as we can tell from here, Scott. Request instructions," Jeff answered.
"The fire is out throughout the plant now, Jeff; the air drops really knocked the wind out of its sails. Virgil's on his way back to the surface in the Mole. There is nothing more for you to do. Return to Thunderbird Two," Scott instructed.
"F-A-B, Scott," Jeff replied. "Returning to Thunderbird Two."
Five Minutes Later
Virgil grinned as a dull series of thuds echoed through the Mole. He knew that sound by heart. It was the sound of docking clamps on the transport sled engaging with locks on the Mole's underside, locking the mighty drilling machine in place. For a moment more nothing happened, then a faint, dull humming filled the air and he could feel the Mole moving, but in a different way than when it was drilling or travelling underground. After a short while, the humming stopped and there came another echoing thud.
Virgil smiled again, knowing that the Mole was now locked into horizontal, transport position. It was now safe for Pedro and the other control bunker staff to disembark. With a quick command to his controls, he activated the radio.
"Mole to Mobile Control," he said.
"Go ahead, Virgil," Scott responded.
"I'm back on the surface, Scott," Virgil replied. "Ready to unload passengers."
"F-A-B, Virgil," Scott answered. "I'll send the paramedics your way. Wait a few minutes then allow your passengers to disembark."
"F-A-B," Virgil acknowledged. "How is the Firefly doing with the fire, Scott?"
"The fire is out, Virgil. The Firefly is returning to Thunderbird Two as we speak."
"F-A-B. As soon as my passengers have disembarked, I'll return to Thunderbird Two myself."
"F-A-B. Inform me as soon as you're back in the pod."
Ten Minutes Later
Scott jumped slightly when his communications panel came to life once again.
"Virgil to Mobile Control," Virgil said.
"Go ahead, Virgil," Scott replied, though he already knew what Virgil was going to say.
"I'm back in Thunderbird Two's pod, Scott. We're just securing everything prior to departure. We'll be ready to depart shortly."
"F-A-B, Virgil. I'll pack up Mobile Control and return to Thunderbird One. Leave as soon as you're ready to do so."
"F-A-B. See you back at base," Virgil said.
"See you back at base," Scott replied then closed the communications channel from his end. Time to go, he thought, as he flicked the switch that cut power to Mobile Control. Instantly, the unit went dark. He smiled, stood up, and disassembled the complex, multipart unit into its component parts.
Despite Mobile Control's complex nature, taking it apart and returning its components to their metallic case took Scott all of a minute and a half. Since International Rescue had begun operations, he had gotten very good at assembling and disassembling it quickly.
He had just closed the case, ready to leave the control tent and return to Thunderbird One when a discreet "ahem" sounded behind him. He turned around to find himself face to face with Captain Fernandez.
"I take it that you're heading home now, Scott," Enrique said with a smile.
"That's right, Enrique," Scott replied. "Our task here is done. The control bunker personnel have all been rescued safely and the fire has been extinguished."
"That's true," Enrique agreed before holding out his hand. "On behalf of us all, thank you for the help, Scott."
"Our pleasure," Scott replied, taking Enrique's offered hand and shaking it warmly. Then he released Enrique's hand, turned and, carrying Mobile Control, walked out of the tent.
Enrique Fernandez watched him leave, a mysterious helmeted and uniformed figure that he only knew only by a first name. Assuming, of course, that 'Scott' was the International Rescue man's real first name. I wish I knew who they really are, he thought, thinking not just about Scott but the Thunderbirds in general. Then we could really thank them properly for helping us.
After a moment, Enrique sighed and went back to his duties. Unlike Scott and International Rescue, he still had a lot of things to do here before he could go home to his wife and children. And it was time to start doing them.