Categories > TV > Thunderbirds > Enhanced
Chapter Twenty One: Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
Mount Baker Base Camp
John hurried with as much haste as he could muster without his nanites tripping in and making him super fast to the gash that had split this camp in two. Small flakes of ash were beginning to fall all around, the fall was light at the moment but he knew it was going to get heavier as the eruption continued. Soon this whole area would be buried under a couple of inches of ash and pumice.
Reaching the fissure John jumped down into it. To see Virgil beside Marcus trying to fit the lifting bags into the incredibly narrow space between where Marcus' legs were pinned and the jagged wall of the gash. Gordon was obviously on the other side of the trailer and would be trying to do the same thing. John was glad to see though that Virgil was wearing a breather mask and that he had slipped a spare from the emergency pack over Marcus's nose and mouth. Looking down at Marcus John couldn't help but be struck by how young he was, only a year or two younger than Alan. The young man's eyes were wide and terrified, his skin pale and clammy and features contorted in a mixture of pain, desperation and abject terror.
"How is it coming Virgil," John asked as the ground shuddered in time with another explosion from the volcano. The movement making Marcus cry out in pain as it shifted the weight of the trailer on his legs. Virgil looked back at John.
"Not good John I just can't get this thing in position," Virgil replied. "The ground keeps shifting and the earthquakes aren't helping. I don't know how were going to do this."
"Please," Marcus said his voice weak and thick with pain. "Please get me out of this."
"Don't worry we will," John replied running through all the options in his head again, trying to find a solution. If Virgil and Gordon couldn't get the lifting units in position because of the unstable ground then he could see only one way of getting Marcus out, short of amputating his legs. Something they didn't have the time, expertise or equipment to safely do here. He was going to have to intervene himself, thankfully with Kyle now aboard Thunderbird Two there was no one to really see him. Marcus might see something but John knew that he would probably dismiss it as a hallucination brought on by shock and trauma, any doctors or authorities he saw certainly would. John raised his wristcom and activated it, hoping that short range comm was working enough to be intelligible despite the interference.
"Gordon can you hear me," he said. After a moment Gordon's face appeared in place of his watch face, the video image flickering, awash with heavy static.
"Yes I can hear you John just barely," Gordon answered his voice extremely badly distorted by the interference. It sounded so grating, electronic and metallic that it sounded like an alien bad guy from that cult British TV show they had used to watch as kids, Doctor Who. Now that he thought about it John realised that with the distortion Gordon sounded so like a Dalek.
"Are you having any luck with placing the lifting units on your end Gordon?" John asked. Gordon shook his head, the picture easy to see despite the static washing across the screen.
"I'm afraid not John," Gordon confirmed.
"I guessed as much Virgil is having exactly the same problem," John replied. "Okay Gordon here's what I want you to do. Abandon what your doing over there and get over this side with Virgil. Don't worry about moving the fallen trailer. Leave that to me."
"F-A-B, John," Gordon acknowledged a look of understanding passing across his features. He knew what John was thinking of doing. John smiled and broke off the communication, before lowering the wristcom to his side. Having heard every word that had been spoken Virgil looked up at John.
"John," Virgil said implying all sorts of questions just by saying his name. Questions like are you sure you want to do this? You're risking exposing that you're not like everyone else, that you have superpowers. John looked into Virgil's concerned hazel coloured eyes and smiled, silently communicating that he was sure about this and that there was also no other choice. At least no acceptable choice, he had to do this or they might as well leave and leave Marcus here to die. And that very notion - leaving a civilian in harms way - was just completely and utterly unacceptable. After a priceless moment when time seemed to stop Virgil nodded his agreement.
John grinned then with easy gymnastic skill jumped back up out of the trench, but on the opposite side to where Mobile Control was set up and the Thunderbirds were parked. It was on this side after all that the rim of the trailer was closest to the ground given the angle it was lying at. John moved as close to the trailer as he could, before squatting down and closing his eyes. Remembering what he had done before at the Australian refinery when he'd needed to use his strength he imagined a dial in his head labelled strength. Slowly he turned that dial up to maximum and immediately felt power surge through him. He opened his eyes again and - feeling his muscles virtually throbbing with superhuman power - reached out and slipped his hands into the small gap between the wall of the trailer and the ground.
With a soft grunt he started to pull the trailer into an upright position standing up as he did so. With a moan of metal and the thudding of items sliding around inside the trailer slowly moved into an upright position, with John taking almost all of the strain.
"Get him out now," John called to his brothers through gritted teeth. Even with the nanites making his muscles superhumanly strong John noticed the weight of the trailer and whatever was inside. Holding it up was going to take much more effort as time wore on and he didn't know how long he was going to be able to hold this thing. Whatever was inside made the trailer heavy and awkward to hold.
Hearing John's call Virgil exchanged a look with the just arrived Gordon. In unison they got to work. Carefully they slid the spinal board under Marcus and secured the terrified intern to it. As he worked Gordon noticed Marcus's legs and winced in sympathy. Both legs from the knee down looked to be badly damaged. There were obvious fracture points but here and there were some cuts but thankfully they were only oozing small amounts of blood, it wasn't coming out like a fountain. Obviously no major blood vessels had been severed; Marcus was in no danger of bleeding to death on them. Still it would be awhile before Marcus walked again.
"Right that's in place," Virgil said. "Let's get him into a stretcher."
Gordon nodded and from Virgil's emergency pack they took out the components for an antigrav stretcher and carefully fitted them together, before securing it to Marcus.
"Ready Marcus," Virgil asked.
"Yes," Marcus replied in his pain filled voice though it was slightly muffled by his breather mask. "Let's just get out of here please."
"No arguments there," Gordon commented as Virgil activated the antigrav stretcher. With a faint humming sound - that was almost lost in the near constant background rumbling of the eruption - the antigrav units activated and the stretcher rose off the ground. Carefully they guided the stretcher clear of the trailer.
"Clear," Virgil called out as they moved away from the trailer. As he spoke Gordon climbed up out of the gash and grabbed the stretcher, gently pulling it and Marcus up to surface level. Virgil followed immediately.
Hearing Virgil's call John sighed in relief and in a single fluid motion released the trailer and jumped back out of range. Instantly gravity reasserted its grip on the trailer and the large curved metal trailer and still off its centre of gravity it fell. Crashing onto its side again with a number of deep, clattering thuds. That thing was heavy, John thought wiping some sweat from his forehead with his right forearm, even with the strength the nanites give me it was heavy. What did they have in there? Lead weights?
Closing his eyes again, John again found the strength dial and turned it back down to normal. As he felt the energy surge that had brought his super strength fade away he became aware of a slight lactic acid burn in his arm muscles. It wasn't much, certainly nothing like the burn he had felt after a heavy workout before the nanites got in him, but it was there. He guessed that holding up that trailer had actually stressed his altered muscles to a considerable degree. The slight burning was a surprising welcome reminder to him that despite his powers he was still at the end of the day a human being, an enhanced human but a human nevertheless.
John opened his eyes again and raised his watch and checked his energy levels. Tapping the strength of the nanites like that had cost him; one of the four green bars on the gage had gone dark, as had half of another one. The loss of energy wasn't that bad now that he thought about it, still energy drain was something he was going to have bare in mind whenever he did something major with his powers. John switched his watch back to normal mode and looked across towards the other half of the camp, it was almost impossible to see now. It was so dark and the ash fall was now so thick that seeing a few meters in front of his face was almost impossible. We need to leave here now, John thought, before Mount Baker decides to throw something a bit nastier than ash our way. Like a lava flow or a mudflow or worse.
John walked forward, coming around to the one side of the fallen trailer where he had a clear run to the other side. The only thing between him and their was the deep gash in the ground, but that would not be an obstacle. Backing up a bit, John took a few deep breathes, grateful that his breather unit prevented him from inhaling any of the potentially lethal grey snow falling from the sky. Jumping this will be easy John, he told himself, you did similar things in school on the gymnastics team and even without nanite assistance you're fitter now than you were then.
Without hesitation he ran forward as quick as he could without using his abilities again, at the last possible instance he jumped. For a moment he sailed through the air, easily clearing the gash in the ground, then he landed, taking the impact with bent knees. Knew I could do it, he thought even as he looked around for Virgil and Gordon. After a moment he found them, almost lost by the ash that was falling all around and was already almost an inch thick on the ground.
"How is he," John asked as he walked up to where his brothers were carefully manoeuvring the antigrav stretcher towards the distant pool of light shining out from Thunderbird Two's open pod bay.
"Not to bad John," Virgil replied. "Marcus here is lucky, while he has crush injuries they're not life threatening." He looked down at Marcus. "You'll be right as rain in no time at all Marcus."
"If we can get out of here," Marcus answered weakly.
"Oh don't worry we will get out," Gordon said with a smile and putting every shred of confidence and reassurance that he had into that statement. "Won't we guys."
"Yes we will," John agreed. "The falling ash will not be an obstacle to us leaving Marcus. The engines on the Thunderbirds were designed to cope with such things." Marcus seemed to relax a little bit and John smiled. A moment before the ground shuddered underneath them again, with enough force that the three of them were thrown off there feet, simultaneously the roar of a powerful explosion - an explosion that sounded to be much closer than the summit crater - ripped through the air.
For a moment they found themselves pelted with small rocks and pebbles that were far to heavy to be any of the pumice that was falling amongst the ash. Then there was a sudden loud and powerful whooshing sound, mixing almost immediately with the crackle of fire. Oh don't tell me, John thought getting back to his feet and turned towards the head of the valley where the crackling was coming from.
To see a short way up from where the valley narrowed into a ravine that went up the mountain a massive jet of molten rock was gushing from the side of the volcano. A substantial stream of rapidly moving superheated lava was already flowing away from the newly opened vent, following the lay of the land and coming right towards them. It would be in the camp in minutes. All around the searing, river trees were going up in flames, flames reaching the tops of the ancient cedar trees almost instantly. The forest around them - which had stood for centuries - was rapidly becoming an instant inferno.
"Oh no," Gordon said getting up and seeing the molten rock approaching. Flames were advancing ahead of it, jumping from tree to tree. The lava stream was beautiful in away, savagely beautiful, and for them potentially very lethal.
"Back to the 'Birds now," John instructed as Virgil got to his feet. Virgil took one look at the rapidly approaching lava stream and nodded.
"What about Mobile Control," Gordon asked as along with Virgil he grabbed Marcus' antigrav stretcher and started running across the slightly uneven ground back towards the two Thunderbirds were parked.
"There is no time to get it," John replied as he followed. "That lava flow is growing in strength all the time. It will be in this camp before I could even start disassembling Mobile Control. We have to leave it. I'm not looking forward to explaining it to Scott but there is no choice."
"He won't worry as long as we're all okay," Virgil pointed out knowing their older brother would be just happy that they all escaped Mount Baker with their lives. He wouldn't worry about the destruction of Mobile Control. "Brains can always build another one, he's been on about replacing the current one for months."
"That's true," John agreed as the crackling of the fire got worse. Glancing behind them John saw that the lava had reached the edge of the camp. It was slowing down a little though as the ground evened out a bit so it wasn't flowing down a steep gradient. Good that buys us another couple of minutes to escape, he thought. "The lava's slowed down a bit but keep going," he said.
"F.A.B," Virgil and Gordon chorused in unison.
A Few Minutes Later
John sighed in relief as he sat down in Thunderbird One's control seat. With a quick press of a button he closed and sealed the hatch, a moment before Thunderbird One's air frame vibrated as it was hit by the concussion wave of something outside exploding. That doesn't sound good, he thought touching another control to turn on the external cameras and training them on the camp. Two of the five trailers were ablaze, the lava stream had grown in force to become a smashing, burning river of red hot molten material which was now as wide as the valley. On each side of the valley the trees were burning like Roman candles illuminating the scene even with the continuous heavy ash fall.
As John watched the leading edge of the lava flow reached the abandoned Mobile Control which had been set up only about ten meters from where Thunderbirds One and Two had landed. The seat he had been sat in earlier, instantly caught light, even as he observed Mobile Control beginning to melt, its outline blurring and dissolving like a ice cube being doused with hot water. The small fusion power cell in Mobile Control detonated as the lava burned its way through the delicate innards of the equipment, throwing burning debris into the air to fall back into the lava where it vanished in puffs of flame and smoke. Mobile Control was gone, erased from existence in less than ten seconds. We better get a move on before the lava does the same thing to us, John thought a moment before the radio crackled to life with an audio only transmission.
"Thunderbird Two to Thunderbird One," Virgil said from the radio, like Gordon earlier his voice was badly distorted by all the electrical interference in the atmosphere which like Gordon made him sound like a Dalek over the radio not a human being.
"Go ahead Virgil," John replied.
"We're ready to depart John."
"F.A.B. Let's get out of here then before the lava flow reaches us and we go the same way as Mobile Control."
"F.A.B." The transmission cut off with a bleep and John manipulated the control levers. Thunderbird One's VTOL jets roared to life and the sleek rocket plane lifted in the air with surprising speed. It was almost as if Thunderbird One herself had decided that she wanted to get away from the lethal danger of the molten rock as quickly as possible. A glance at his sensor displays showed John that Thunderbird Two was lifting off as well, rising more slowly, but rising nevertheless.
In moments both machines had climbed high enough in the air that they were no longer in danger from the lava or from clipping there undersides on the burning trees. John sighed in pure relief that they were away from the lava though they weren't out of danger just yet. They would have to get well clear of the erupting volcano before they could really be considered safe. With a quick command he retracted the landing gear and shifted Thunderbird One's wings into flight configuration, while pushing the throttle forward. Thunderbird One's engines roared to life though a blinking warning light let John know that engine power was barely at forty percent, even with the ash filters the jet engines were having difficulty functioning correctly in this environment.
"Thunderbird One to Thunderbird Two," John said into the radio. "Virgil what's your engine power like?"
"Forty percent on all engines John," Virgil replied. "The ash filters are really having a hard time keeping the ash out. Let's get out of here before power drops too low to keep us in the air."
"F.A.B," John answered in agreement as he disengaged the VTOL jets and got Thunderbird One moving, heading along the quickest flight path out of the ash cloud from Mount Baker into clear air. Phew that's over, John thought, we've got the scientists safe. Now just have to drop them off at a hospital then fly home to Tracy Island. This mission will then be over and we can relax after some much-needed showers.
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