Categories > TV > Thunderbirds > Scott Cooks Up a Slight Storm

6 - Peril in the Snow

by Harpos_Horn 0 Reviews

Another day, another rescue, but there's that man again. No, still don't own them.

Category: Thunderbirds - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Romance - Characters:  - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2006/03/17 - Updated: 2006/03/18 - 7505 words

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Chapter VI - Peril in the Snow

Three days later Scott was in the boat pen, helping
Gordon clean the hull of the speedboat. A bleeping sound
suddenly came through over the lapping water and the buzz
of the scraper.

"That's us." Said Scott, and they downed tools and
hurried up to the lounge.

"Quickly boys." Said Jeff as they entered, "Scott, I want
you to launch Thunderbird One right away.

"Yes, Sir." Scott sped to the wall panel, grabbed the
light fittings and disappeared behind the revolve.

"Virgil, take Gordon and John. The roof of a large public
building has collapsed due to the weight of snow. A lot
of people are trapped and they're running out of time.
Take the excavator, maybe the domo too. Grandma's packing
up your extreme cold suits, she's putting Scott's in
Thunderbird Two, so you'll have to get it to him when you
get there." Alan's picture signal went off, "Go ahead
Alan. Get going boys." Jeff shooed his other three sons
off to their craft.

"Father, I've been talking to one of the rescuers there
at the moment. They've had to temporarily stop work, it's
too dangerous, there's more snow falling and the hall
next to them looks like it might go too. They can still
hear people, but it's so cold they don't think they'll
survive much longer."

"Okay Alan. Tell them help is on its way. Scott's already
left, I just saw him go. Keep listening to their
frequency, see if you can get any more information. I'll
tell Scott where to head." Jeff flicked off the monitor
after Alan's smart 'FAB', and called up Scott instead.

"Go ahead, Father."

"I've sent the flight details straight to Thunderbird's
computer Scott. Are you getting them?"

"Yes, I see them. Changing to horizontal flight. I'll
have to bank round the area and come in from the west I
think Father, there's a terrific wind blowing from the
east according to the charts, and I don't want to land
with it."

"Okay Scott, but be quick about it. There are people
dying in there."

"Sure Father, at maximum speed now. ETA Twenty-eight
minutes."

"Virgil's right behind you. He's carrying your cold suit.
I want you to get it off him as soon as he lands. I don't
want you getting stuck in there without it, even if
you're hot while you're working."

"FAB." Scott closed the channel and made a minor
adjustment to the flight path. He felt calm and started
to hum a tune softly to himself. "Bah bu-bah-baa, buh-buh-
bah-bah, bah buh-bah-bah-bah-baaaa..." His brain was
working again. On-duty Scott was back. He wasn't thinking
about Ned. No sir. He wasn't thinking about...

Ned.

Thunderbird one touched down, straining her directional
jet against the wind as Scott fought to keep her under
control. The nose cone was caked in ice and it had taken
a shrieking grind of power to open her wings for the
descent.

"And I thought that hole was cold." Scott said to
himself, looking at the environmental reports in front of
him. He called his father.

"Go ahead Scott."

"I've landed, Father."

"How does it look Scott?"

"Hellish. It froze up my wings on the way in. It's a
blizzard out there. I can't even see the place. I'll have
to wait for it to ease a bit. I wouldn't stay upright for
ten seconds out there. How far behind is Virgil?"

"He can't get to you for at least fifty minutes. You'll
have to start without him. What can you see there?

"The radar scan shows the collapsed building, two other
buildings next to it, about eight vehicles and, a
helijet? Don't know what that's doing here. Must be a
rescue craft I guess. I'll try to find out." Scott called
off and put himself through to Virgil.

"Thunderbird Two to Thunderbird One, loud and clear
Scott. What's the position?"

"You need to put your foot down Virgil. There's people
dying here. I'm trapped in Thunderbird One for the
moment, the weather's too dangerous. I'm going to talk to
the rescue team here in a minute. Can you cut any time
off your ETA?"

"That's a negative, Scott. I'm pushing her to the limit
already. I'm doing five thousand and twenty with a
tailwind. If I push her any more I'll end up in the sea.
When we get closer I'll send Gordon and John through to
get everything ready to save time, but I'm afraid that's
the best I can do."

"Okay Virg. Just keep it up. Over and out." Scott changed
channel again to speak to Alan.

"Space Station to Thunderbird One, how's it looking
Scott?"

"I don't know Alan, it's a whiteout here. Radar's showing
me where everything is, but without a vehicle and a suit
I daren't go out there. Can you patch me through to the
guy you've been talking to? Maybe we can work something
out down here."

"FAB." Said Alan, and Scott heard the line click through.

"This is Scott Tracy in Thunderbird One calling ground
rescue team, can you hear me?"

"We hear you Mr. Tracy." Replied a thickly accented
voice.

"Alright, can you give me a rundown of what's happened
and what you've been doing."

"The roof of the main building collapsed under the weight
of snow. The walls are still standing, but they are in
danger of falling, as is one of the buildings next to it,
which could fall and crush more of the walls. The roof
has fallen in large sections, so there are pockets
underneath and we pulled two people out from right near
the entrance. But of course, it is so very dangerous to
go in there under that roof and it is very cold so the
people will be freezing and starving. We had to abandon
our task a while ago because of this storm, it was too
dangerous. When it eases we will go back, but we cannot
hope to save them. It is for you to try."

"Thanks buddy. Now look, at the moment I'm stuck in my
aircraft because of the storm. I've traced your signal,
so I know where you are. I want you to stay put until I
come to find you. We can't have people around the
building when we're trying to work. It will be dangerous.
I'd like you and your team to stay away and prepare to
receive any survivors. Or bodies. Okay?"

"Of course, if that is the most we can do to help."

"Well, you can give me any extra information you can.
What is the building's roof made of?"

"It was steel and strengthened glass. The centre was
supported on pillars, that's why it came down in
sections."

"What about the walls?"

"Stone."

"Do these storms happen often? How long do they last?"

"They are not so often like this. Very often it snows,
but like this...I think it will not last long. Maybe half
an hour if we have not so much luck."

"Who's in there? Do you know? Numbers, what type of
people?"

"I have made guesses with the two we rescued earlier. We
think perhaps fifty or sixty people were inside. But who
they are, I do not know. They were just the ordinary
people, so perhaps children as well as men and women.
They may be old or young. I cannot tell."

"Well, we'll find out. Thanks pal. You keep yourselves
warm and I'll get back to you in about forty minutes."

Scott called off and swept the area with the infra-red
sensor, but the cold was too intense and the area too big
to show anything up. He called Virgil again.

"Go ahead Scott."

"Virgil, I've spoken to the guy who's coordinating the
current rescue, but they're still snowed in like me. He
says it was a stone walled construction with a steel and
strengthened glass roof on pillars. The roof has fallen
in pockets, so initial survival could be good in places.
But I don't rate their chances in this cold. He thinks
there might have been children in there too." Virgil
whistled through his teeth,

"I'll send Gordon down to get the Domo set up for it.
Maybe we can pull some of the roof off with the grabs?"

"Maybe. I can't see what the damage is like right now,
but he said this shouldn't last too long."

"Well, my ETA is now twenty minutes, managed to find a
high altitude tailwind that nearly ripped my wings off,
but it cut the time."

"Well done Virgil! I think it might be easing off a bit
out there. I told the rescue team to stay put till we
came to find them. They're going to receive whoever we
pull out of there."

"Great. Look Scott, I had a call from Alan. There's a
live broadcast going out from there, or there was until
the storm came in. I guess that's what the helijet's
there for. Guess who's making that broadcast."

"Don't tell me."

"Yep. He's not in there though, last call off they were
in the helijet, so you might not actually have to rescue
him this time."

"What's he doing here?"

"He goes for anything big doesn't he. I guess this was
too good to miss. Great story. You'd better get in
contact with him though. Remind him not to film and keep
him out of the way."

"I swept for a frequency for the helijet earlier, it's
not responding. I'll check when I get out of here."

Fifteen minutes later Virgil called back in.

"Scott, I'm in the area. I can't see a thing, can you
guide me in?"

"Got you on radar. You're directly over the collapsed
building. Head Due North about 600 yards." Virgil did so
and Scott stopped him.

"You're overhead, right right thirty degrees, then you
shouldn't land on me."

"Coming into land now Scott." Scott heard the landing
jets as they boiled off the snow beneath and the thud of
the huge craft landing beside him. The whine of hydraulic
rams pushing the main body off pod six could just be
heard over the howl of the wind. Virgil spoke again.

"I'm sending John over to you in the excavator. Bring the
infra-red scanner and your communicator and he'll bring
you back here to get suited up. You're right, you'd be
blown away in this." Scott waited until he heard a
rumbling motor beneath the nose of Thunderbird One.

"John to Thunderbird One, I'm directly below your hatch
Scott. I reckon you can lower the ladder right down to
the entry hatch and climb in without letting go. Boy is
it blowy out here."

"FAB." Said Scott, and opened the hatch below him. A
blast of freezing air assaulted him and he screwed up his
eyes. He pushed the ladder down manually until it hit the
red body of the excavator that he could hardly see below
him. Grasping the ladder firmly, his kit strapped to his
belt, he made his way down until he could grasp one of
the grab handles on the side of the excavator. The wind
whipped round him, throwing him off balance as he
operated the remote closure on the hatch with his watch.
With his eyes firmly shut, Scott pulled himself round to
the entry hatch and fumbled it open, his hands already
stiff with cold. Throwing himself into the confines of
the cabin, he shut the door and took a deep breath."

"Ow!" Said John, who had received Scott's heel in his
shoulder as he came through the hatch.

"Sorry John." Scott said, "It's hopeless out there." He
pulled himself upright, squeezed tightly into the space
around John, the cabin really not being designed for two
people. John trundled the excavator back to the pod and
drove in. Gordon was already in the domo, preparing to
drive it out. In the shelter of the pod, Scott got out of
the machine and headed over to where Virgil was getting
into his cold suit. John followed, reaching for his own
in the wall storage.

"Well Virgil, we're gonna have to go two in each of
these, over to the buildings, you can't stand up out
there. When we get to the buildings, I want you to take
the excavator and get as close in as you can to
investigate, take John and he can do the infra-red scan.
I'm going to go and talk to the team that's here and also
to Ned if I can get across. Gordon, I want you to stay in
the Domo and follow Virgil up, if you think any of it's
going to give, try to hold it. We can't do more until the
storm dies down a bit."

"FAB Scott." Replied the others.

The two machines rolled slowly over to the ruined
building and Scott checked his bearings for the rescue
team.

"Virgil, you go on." He called. "Gordon, head east...here"
A low bunker-like building loomed out of the snow-filled
air and Gordon brought the Domo round with its back to
the door. Scott scrambled out of the hatch and flung
himself at the entrance as Gordon drove off.

The door opened and Scott found himself in a tiny room,
fuggy with the breath of about twenty stockily built men
and one woman, all dressed in heavy winter clothing.
Scott pulled back his own hood as he quickly shut the
door.

"Scott Tracy. Good to see you guys safe and warm." They
introduced him. About half spoke English. The leader, who
introduced himself as Evgeny, told Scott that the woman
and the man next to her were the two they had rescued.

"Okay. My buddies are heading round the building now to
take a look, but you still can't walk out there. They'll
do their best to stop any more falling. If we get anyone
else out of there, is there anywhere else for them to go?
It's a bit cramped in here."

"There is nowhere. Only the other buildings which are
also dangerous."

"Okay. I'll arrange something. There's a helijet parked
about twenty-five yards from here. I know the people in
there, I'm going to try to get over there. Stay put. I'll
be back soon." Scott pulled up his hood, opened the door,
dropped to his knees as the door closed behind him, and
crawled on his belly in the direction of the helijet. He
found one of its legs with his head, hauled himself up on
it and found the door. Pressing the button by the door,
it opened and he climbed in.

Two heads turned in shock as Scott appeared in the cabin
of the helijet. He pulled off his hood once more and
rubbed the snow off his face.

"Scott!" Ned gasped. I tried to call you, but our radio's
down. Who called?"

"The leader of the rescue team here. Did you meet him?
Evgeny."

"Yeah, I met him. He wasn't very happy because we were
filming, but I had to report it. I couldn't have helped
if I'd wanted to. What's it like out there now? We came
back here because we were being blown of our feet. This
is Bob by the way, my cameraman. Bob, this is Scott. He
saves lives." Scott felt himself colouring in spite of
the cold, and shook his head.

"It's still bad. I'm glad you were sensible and got back
here in time. When the storm passes, you'd better head
off. You can't film while we're operating and it'll be
over when we've finished." Ned shook his head,

"Can't. Something's bust on this thing. We only just made
it in. We came through a bit of an electrical storm on
our way here and it knocked out the radio and sent the
jets haywire. No control. Bob only just avoided landing
on that hut thing. Besides, I'd rather stay and help if I
can. I feel kinda bad about not helping earlier now."

"Well, you could join the rescue party if you want to,
but you'll have to do as they say. And keep your camera
in here."

"Sure Scott."

"I'm going back to the hut now, I'll send someone to
fetch you when it's safe." Scott opened the door and
looked out. "Hey, it's dying down. I can see the hut and
the building. Pull your coat on and come with me, I'll
take you to the hut now." Ned did as he was told, but Bob
stayed put. "Not coming?" Asked Scott. Bob shook his
head. "Okay, stay warm Bob." Scott climbed down to the
ground and Ned followed him, grabbing his coat at the
bottom as the wind whipped snow up into his face, but
less fiercely now. Scott took him to the hut and pulled
him inside. Then opened comms to Virgil and Gordon.

"Virg? I've got Ned back to the hut with the rescue team.
He's going to help out here. Wind seems to be dying down.
What's the verdict?"

"Okay Scott, I've been round twice. The walls of this one
look like they'll hold, but the roof looks like it's
balancing pretty finely. John's scanned the place and we
reckon there are maybe twenty people still alive in
there. Might be more, hopefully, if the snow is blocking
the signal in places. They were probably making for the
doors when they heard it creaking. I'd say start near the
doors and work in."

"Are we going to be able to get in there on foot Virgil?"

"Negative, I'd say. The worst damage is around the front,
the roof has slipped in off the wall, but held on a
pillar. If we could lift that section out, we might stand
a chance with that first lot."

"Okay Virgil. I think it's calm enough to walk around out
there now. Let John out with the scan results and the
rescue gear near this hut, then get back to Thunderbird
Two and standby to lift the roof if you can. Hopefully
the EM grabs will hold on the steel under-structure.
Gordon, I want you to stay in the Domo and get round to
the northern side wall. Virgil, you're going to pull the
roof section up onto one side and lean it against that
wall, otherwise you'll dump a loan of snow on whoever's
under there. Gordon, when you can, try to get a grip on
that roof section. Tell Virgil when you've got it safely
and he'll let go. I want Thunderbird Two over there as
little as possible, and keep as high as you can Virg,
your jets could knock those sections off balance if we're
not careful. Tell me when you're heading over and I'll
come out." The door opened and a wind-swept John entered
as Virgil and Gordon replied,

"FAB Scott."

"Hi John, got those results? This is Evgeny and the local
rescue team. And this is Ned Cook." Scott held John with
steady blue eyes for a moment, but John knew better than
to go off-topic with Scott during a rescue, and just
shook hands with Ned and Evgeny and nodded to the others.
He handed the scan results to Scott, who memorised them
quickly and handed them back to John. He pulled two snow
shifters from the pack John had brought in and handed one
to his brother. It was a long shovel with a variable-
heated blade and a pump hose at the back. As the snow was
cut, it melted on the blade and the slush was fired back
over the operator's shoulder or could be funnelled down a
hose to a collection tank or more distant point. Scott
strapped his on over his warm coat, checked his medi-pack
was still firmly attached. Then he turned to the rest of
the group,

"We're about to attempt the rescue. We'll be lifting the
roof and it won't be safe for any of you to be near. The
two of us are going to get in there when we can and try
to find people, but we'll be against the clock, we've
already lost a lot of time. I want half of you to wait
outside this hut and come to get people when we bring
them out, and keep an eye on anything that changes in
terms of the weather or the stability of the surrounding
buildings keep the channel open on this transceiver set
so we can hear each other. We might be too busy to
notice. Then swap over when you get too cold, I don't
want anyone freezing out there. Evgeny, can you sort that
out please?" The big man nodded and started talking fast
in his own language and pointing at people. Scott's comms
set went off and he answered it.

"Go ahead Virgil."

"I'm almost in position Scott, if you come out now I'll
move directly overhead and lower grabs. Gordon's already
in position."

"Okay Virgil. Are you ready Gordon?"

"Yes Scott. In position now. I just hope I can hold that
thing, even the Domo is slipping on this ice."

"Do what you can Gordon. Coming over now." He beckoned
John and they left the shelter and made their way across
to the collapsed building. Behind them, half of Evgeny's
team huddled in the lee of their shelter with the
transceiver, watching intently.

"Moving into position now, at maximum reach. I can see a
bit where the snow's slidden off. I'm aiming for there."
Said Virgil, and Scott and John watched as the snow-
covered hulk moved slowly across, over the building.

"In position. Lowering grabs now." Said Virgil, sounding
like all his concentration was being poured into this one
action. The steel cables with the giant magnets on the
ends lowered slowly from a hatch near Thunderbird Two's
nose, and descended into the building. Scott could hear
Virgil's breathing, even over his tiny receiver, and he
bit his lip.

"Gently does it Virg." He murmured, encouragingly.

"Grabs down on roof surface. They're sliding on the
glass. I can see a beam just above where they've landed,
I'm going to drag them up the slope and hope they catch.
Damn!" The motors on Thunderbird Two suddenly changed
frequency as a gust of wind caught the machine and it
fought to stabilise round its gyro.

"Are you alright Virgil?" Scott asked, anxious.

"Yeah. Alright Scott. The wind caught me just as I had
it. I thought the lines had knocked the roof for a
second, but it's okay. Trying again." A pause. "I've got
it Scott! Lifting now. Stand by Gordon."

"Standing by." Thunderbird Two pulled slowly to the north
as Virgil inched in the cables on their winch. The grabs
seemed to be holding on the beam, and the section of roof
tilted painfully up on its side towards the waiting Domo,
a sheet of snow massing at its base and making it even
heavier to move.

"Gordon, can you get it yet? I don't think the grabs will
hold much longer at this angle." Gordon pulled a lever in
the Domo and the hydraulic arms extended over the top of
the stone wall and reached towards the raising roof.

"Not quite Virgil, another couple of yards and I'll just
be able to reach it." Virgil hauled in more of the cable,
the roof tilted up further. But one of the grabs began to
slip.

"Quickly Gordon, I'm losing it!" Cried Virgil. Gordon
pushed the lever home and the suction cups found the
glass, holding the smooth surface easily.

"Got it!" He called, and they heard Virgil's sigh of
relief.

"Winding in cables now and moving off Scott, you'd better
get in there quickly."

"Right, good work Virgil. Gordon, hold her steady now,
John and I are going in."

The door of the building was wood, half pushed out by the
fall of snow, and Scott pulled it free easily. He and
John started up their snow-shifters, glad that there was
only the faintest trace of snowfall continuing. Inside
the door a great bank of snow showed what had fallen off
the side of the roof as it slid inwards, beyond, it
looked less deep, the section uncovered by Virgil
representing the nearest eighth or so of the area. Scott
recalled the scan results and concentrated his work on
the area to the left of the door, sending John straight
ahead. The shifter cleared snow at a high speed, but the
total mass was so great that Scott hardly seemed to be
getting anywhere. He spoke into the open channel through
his headset,

"How's it holding Gordon?"

"Holding fine Scott." Virgil chimed in,

"I've landed Scott, do you want me to come down and
help?"

"Yes. Get a shifter and come in the front entrance.
There's so much snow here it's going to take time, and
that's just what we don't have."

"FAB."

Scott was still working his way through the snow on the
left when Virgil arrived.

"Start clearing next to John, Virg." Scott said, and kept
working on his bit. Ten minutes later there was a shout
from Virgil,

"We've got one Scott! Still alive, trapped under a sort
of table thing. John's checking her over, then he'll take
her out to the local lot."

"Well done Virg. Go carefully shifting the furniture
there." Scott heard John muttering through his checks,
then a short grunt as he lifted the woman and carried
her out.

"She's got hypothermia, but it looks like she escaped any
other damage. Continuing the search."

Another five minutes and John was back with them. He and
Virgil were now deep into the drift at the centre of the
building, while Scott was approaching the sheer wall of
up-tilted roof to the side. He muttered in frustration,
the scan had definitely shown something over here.
Another ten minutes and Virgil and John had found three
more, one dead, but two alive. They were trapped in a
small air space formed by a fallen partition and a
countertop. The snow had caved in the access end and
there was only a small gap through which they could be
seen. Virgil and John got to work, cutting away the wood
of the counter. The two trapped men were freezing and one
of them was no longer conscious; if they weren't rescued
quickly, they'd be dead.

At last Scott pushed his shifter into the snow and saw it
melting away from the tip of a boot. He sped up, telling
Virgil what he had found. The shifter uncovered a plank
resting on the legs of a woman, Scott got to his knees
and started to clear the remaining snow away with his
hands as Gordon shouted down the comms channel,

"Scott! The Domo is losing its grip, I just felt it
slide. It's stopped now, but I don't think it will hold
much longer. You need to get out of there."

"Hold on Gordon, do all you can, I've found..." Scott
stopped. He was digging frantically now uncovering the
frozen, stiff legs and icy torso of the woman who hadn't
made it. He sighed, squeezing his eyes, but as he opened
them, he saw movement. Nestled underneath her, hanging on
in what was left of her warmth, was a small boy, alive,
but clearly badly hurt.

"Scott! It's slipping again." Scott looked around wildly,
his eyes searching for something to help him. They
lighted on a beam whose lower end was jammed in the
floor, but whose upper end jutted into the air near the
roof section. Scott looked at the boy, abandoned his
shifter and went to the beam. It was heavy, a roof
support by the look of things, but nothing would make
Scott give up now. He took hold of it, as far from the
base as he could reach. His lips compressed as he
struggled to lift the massive pole and he spoke haltingly
as he heaved,

"Virg, John?...Can you...I can't shift this..."

"We can't stop Scott, we're going to lose them."

"I can't..." Scott heaved again and the pole shifted;
carrying the momentum through, he pushed it until it
jammed against the roof section. Panting hard, he asked
Gordon,

"Has that helped?"

"Affirmative Scott, I can hold it now, what did you do?"

"I jammed a pole...No!" He grabbed at the pole as it
started to slide. His strength was just enough with the
existing friction to counter the weight of the pole, but
if he let go now it would fall, probably ripping the roof
from the Domo's grasp and crushing him, Virgil and John
and the survivors.

"That was close. Look guys, I can't move. Virgil, John,
you have to work fast then come help me." Scott was
shouting in his fear, Virgil tried to calm him,

"Take it easy Scott, we're going as fast as we can."
Scott regained his composure, and spoke quietly now,

"Virgil, I can't hold on, my arms are starting to ache.
If I let go we will all be crushed. I can feel it
starting to slip, Virgil. The boy here will die if I
don't get him out in the next minute or two."

"John, carry on, I'm coming Scott." But before Virgil
could negotiate the long passages of cleared, but icy
ground, a figure came round the corner into Scott's view.

Ned was shivering and clearly terrified, but he came
steadily up to where Scott was.

"Let me help." He said, between chatters of his teeth.
Scott paused only a second, his initial inclination to
yell at Ned to get out of the danger area quashed by his
realisation of the imminence of failure.

"Get the boy out." He said, straining with the effort of
keeping the beam in place. Virgil had fallen somewhere
and was cursing as he tried to regain his footing. Ned
moved over to the body of the woman and reached under
her.

"He's hurt. Should I move him?"

"No choice. Ned." Ned pulled at the woman's body, looking
like he was about to throw up, but with a determined set
to his brow. He reached down and pulled the boy up by his
shoulders. The little mouth moved silently as he hugged
him to his shoulder.

"Take. Him. Out. Stay out." Scott breathed. Ned looked
back at him, fear displayed clearly on every inch of his
face. Scott tried to smile, but his face was too screwed
up with the effort, and he just looked pained. Ned went,
as quickly as he could on the ice, and Virgil spoke,

"Nearly with you Scott. Hold on big bro. I'm coming, I
just saw Ned outside the door, he's got the boy out
safely." Then Virgil appeared round the corner, got in
next to Scott and took some of the weight from him.

"What do we do now?" He asked, smiling wryly at Scott.

"If John comes here as well, maybe we can lift this thing
back up and wedge it to give us time to get out. John,
how are you going?"

"I'm nearly through. I think we may have lost the
unconscious guy, but this one is still okay. I'll get to
you as soon as I get him out."

"Be quick about it John."


In a couple of minutes, John had taken the survivor out
to the local team and made it back to where his brothers
struggled with half the roof. Between the three of them
they managed to reposition the pole to hold its place and
they quickly set to work clearing the rest of the snow,
finding three more alive and five dead.

The next section was under apiece of roof that seemed
well supported on its pillars, though impossible to
access from the edge due to the debris built up under it.
Virgil fetched the excavator and used it to gently push a
piece of wall that was not playing a supportive role out
of the way.

As the wall fell to the side, the clear space beneath
that fallen section of roof was revealed and the chance
of rescue under it looked better. Two and a half hours of
intensive work with the shifters took them through the
whole area, with only one terrifying moment as the roof
slipped slightly as a pillar fell to the side. The
remainder held, however, and twenty survivors were found
huddling under a counter right at the back, only six more
dead being uncovered.

"That's it then." Said Scott once they had handed the
last body over to the local team. "Rescue complete. If
only we could have done more." Virgil patted his brother
on the back,

"Don't beat yourself up Scott. It was dangerous and
difficult. We did what we could. None of them would have
made it if we hadn't been here. We were lucky to survive
ourselves."

"I know."

"Well there's someone who's glad you made it, Scott."
Said John, with a cheery edge lifting his weary voice.
Ned was slipping and sliding across the snow to them, as
fast as he could go. They were putting their packs in the
excavator when he reached them, slowing only in the last
few feet and skidding to a clumsy halt, clutching at
Scott's coat for balance. He was deathly pale, but his
face was registering a curious mixture of triumph and
uncertainty.

"You..." He said, but seemed to run out of anything to say.
That happened a lot around Scott. He was starting to
notice it: so different from his on-screen babbling.
Scott cast a glance at his brothers. Gordon was still off
parking the Domo, John was studiously inspecting his
gloves; only Virgil was watching him and Ned with frank
interest, clearly having no idea of what might or might
not link them. Scott didn't care. What Ned had done, the
way he looked now, the way Scott felt...He leaned forward,
took Ned's cold face in his gloved hands, and kissed him.
He pulled him close to him and wrapped his thermal coat
round Ned's freezing shoulders.

"Why the heck didn't you get in the warm like I told
you?"

"I c-couldn't. I w-wouldn't have b-been able t-to s-see
what was g-going on." Ned shivered, and Scott pulled him
closer. He looked up at Virgil, expecting to see surprise
or shock or anger, resignation, anything. Virgil had a
slight smile curling the very corners of his mouth and
his brown eyes were gentle and unquestioning.

"Get him up to the pod Scott, warm him up with the
blankets and hot tea. I'll go and debrief the rescue team
with John. Call Alan and tell him we've done, will you?
Take the excavator, we'll walk up."

*******

Twenty minutes later, Ned being warm enough to speak
fluently again and Scott having changed out of his filthy
clothes into civvies, they discussed the helijet problem,
while Scott's brothers continued talking to the local
team.

"I'll call our engineer, he might know what went wrong."
Scott did so, and was soon speaking to the blue-
spectacled man back on Tracy Island. Scott explained the
problem and brains scratched his chin pensively,

"I-it sounds to me l-like it's an er, LQ-1 Howe-Slites
helijet. They are er, well-known for their d-delicate
hardware."

"But do you know if we can fix it Brains?"

"Uh, m-maybe Scott. You need to look in the f-forward
hatch under the n-nose. F-from the sound of it, it's the
a-automatic control board that's at f-fault. In an e-
electrical storm, the, er, wiring has been known to fuse.
I-if you can see the d-damage and it is r-repairable,
it's o-obvious what to do. I-if, as I suspect, it's a-a
mess, it will have to be f-flown on m-manual."

"Okay, thanks Brains. I'll take a look." Scott called off
and held out Ned's warmed, dried coat to him.

"Come on, let's get down to the helijet. I'll look at it,
but it sounds like it'll just have to go home on manual.
How good a pilot is Bob?"

"I don't think he's the best. I mean, he knows how to get
us about, but he's not trained for anything extra."

"Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For
now, let's find out if it can be fixed."

They slipped and slid down to the helijet and Scott
prised open the inspection hatch under the nose of the
machine. Inside was a muddle of twisted, melted wires. He
put the hatch door back in place and sucked his lip.

"Looks like that board's out of it. Let's go and talk to
Bob." They went inside and found Bob dozing in the
pilot's chair. He jerked awake as Ned tapped him on the
shoulder, and Scott explained the situation.

"...so the question is, can you fly this thing without the
automatic system?" Bob looked nervous,

"I don't think so. I wouldn't know where to start."

"Right. In that case, I'm going to have to fly you back.
Where does this thing have to go to for repair?"

Bob told him and Scott called Virgil on his watch.

"Go ahead Scott."

"I'm ready to go now, but the helijet automatic flying
controls are out of action. Ned and Bob have got to get
it back to have it repaired, but Bob doesn't have the
experience to pilot it. If I pilot this thing, who can
fly Thunderbird One back to base?" John's face appeared,
squashed up next to Virgil's,

"Not me Scott, count me out. I'm too jumpy with her."

"Right, it'll have to be Gordon then. Will you tell
Father what's going on? I need to get going. I'll give
him a call when we get in and maybe someone can pick me
up in the jet."

"Sure Scott. I'll tell Gordon to fly carefully!"

"He'd better." Scott said, very little in jest, and
swapped places with Bob for the Pilot's chair. Bob took
the co-pilot's seat next to him and asked tentatively,

"I'd sure like to see how you do it. D'you mind if I
watch?"

"No, not at all. I'll explain as I go along. It's pretty
straightforward to understand what you've got to do, it's
just doing it's a bit of a problem. I trained on
something similar to this in the air-force before they'd
really sorted out the automation, so I'm not too bad.

"You're only doing what the automatic system does, but
instead of it working out all the individual bits and
just letting you say 'I want to go forward', you have to
handle all the propulsion jets individually from the
manual panel." Scott looked down by the side of the
collective and found the control he was looking for. He
unhooked the safety cover and flicked the switch.

"That changes the control panel to manual drive. The
collective is disengaged because that runs solely to the
automatic exchange boards. You're using the secondary
functions on this set of controls here," Scott indicated
a row of buttons across the length of the panel, "and, if
I'm remembering correctly...yep, this set of sliders that
you probably didn't even know was here." He hooked his
finger round the end of the blank surface below the
buttons and revealed the sliders, each in line with a
button.

"That's it. All the controls you get."

"I always wondered what the other labels on those things
were." Said Bob, in wonder. Scott grinned,

"Well, now you know. Each one is marked for one of the
jets. You've got a forejet on your nose, an aftjet under
your tail, two multi-directionals on your stabiliser
fins, two propulsion jets on your tail and a couple of
yaw jets just behind the cockpit. There are also the
hover fans, but I'd ignore them if you're trying to fly
manual. It's hard enough without. So you just have to
think what you're actually doing each time you would have
just pulled on the collective." He looked round,
"Strapped in, Ned?" Ned nodded and Scott put his hands on
the controls.

"Okay. Take-off. Take it in stages. First you've got to
get off the ground, so make sure the multi-directionals
are pointing straight down and your slides are at zero..."
He flicked two little joy-sticks, one at each end of the
control range and pushed all the sliders up towards the
windshield, "then you want to fire all four under-cart
jets at once. Go gently, push the buttons for the four of
them, those are just two-way switches, so they're on or
off. Then put your fingers on all the sliders, and pull
them down as slowly as you can, keeping them all level,
otherwise you'll tip over. There's a rough marker for
'airborne', just there, so somewhere past that we should
have taken off." The helijet lurched slightly and then
left the ground, hovering about a foot off. Scott
increased the jets' power until they were well up in the
air.

"Now you get buffeting from the wind. Usually the helijet
automatically stabilises you round the gyro with bursts
from the directionals, but we haven't got that luxury
now, so keep an eye on the gyro and the feel of the
craft. If you're starting to veer of course, or pitch or
roll too much, bring her back with a burst. You're
probably better off using the pitch and yaw jets and
touches extra or less on the fore and aft jets, than the
directionals, because they're really hard to control. Now
we're well up, I'm going to turn them off." He presses
their two buttons again and added power to the fore and
aft jets using their sliders in order to compensate. "So
I'll put the pitch and yaw jets on standby and power up
the propulsion jets." He did, and they started to move
forwards, Scott constantly adjusting the power levels to
the other jets to keep them stable and change direction.
His concentration levels were intense, but he still
managed to keep up a running commentary for Bob.

When they eventually reached the airfield which was base
to the helijet, Scott sat back, sighing gratefully as the
legs touched down gently on the tarmac.

"Whew, that was some flying, bud." Bob said,
appreciatively, having watched Scott's dextrous
manipulation of the many controls throughout the flight.

"Thanks. Could you go and check in here and explain
what's happened. I'd be grateful though if you could not
tell them that I'm from International Rescue. If I have
to show them my documentation for flying this thing, I
don't want my details linked up."

"Sure thing, sir." Said Bob, and exited the craft, still
shaking his head in wonder. A few minutes later a man in
a grey suit arrived, checked Scott's documentation, and
left again, declaring himself satisfied. Bob had gone and
Scott and Ned were alone in the craft.

"Scott quickly called base and saw his father's face
appear in front of him,

"Go ahead, Scott."

"I've landed the helijet, Father. I could come back now
if you send the jet. But I was wondering..." His father cut
him off,

"You'd like to take that leave while you're away? Your
brothers have been on at me to let you ever since they
got back. I don't know what you've bribed them with, but
I think I'd rather take the risk than bear another week
of their moaning. I guess I was a little harsh on you the
other week. You can stay overnight there if you really
want to, though I can't see what you want to do there. I
hold to my word though, you can't have proper leave while
Alan's away. I'll send Tin-Tin out for you tomorrow mid-
morning. Will that hold you for a bit?" Scott felt like
bursting with surprise and joy, but answered his father
as normally as ever,

"That sure does sound great Dad. Thanks. I really
appreciate that."

"Hmm." Said his Father, "Just be back at the airfield
tomorrow at eleven. See you tomorrow Son." He called off.

Ned looked at Scott, having hardly spoken a word for the
entire journey.

"I have a company suite here. What say we go and dump our
stuff, then go and get some dinner, on the company?"
Scott grinned,

"I knew I loved you for a reason! Can I just have twenty
minutes for a shower and a nap, then I'll be ready for
anything."

"Sure. I've got a report to fill out anyway, then I think
I might take a shower too. I don't know how you stay so
alert though. Ten minutes for a nap? I'd need a week with
what you've done today."

"I told you, last time was unusual. I'd had practically
no sleep the night before, then a rescue much more
exhausting than this one, then a surprise re-boot to come
and get you. Normally I can go on very little sleep."
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