A ruthless industrialist hatches a devious plot to steal the secrets of International Rescue while Scott wrestles with a deep personal dilema.
Scott grimaced as he dropped Thunderbird One's speed to subsonic and surveyed the skyline of the city. The Raykier Building was easy to spot; not only did it tower over all the other skyscrapers in the city, but the plume of thick, acrid smoke rising from it made its position perfectly clear.
Scott guided Thunderbird One closer to the blazing building and probed it with his sensors. The situation had definitely worsened in the twenty minutes since they had been called. Five of the Raykier's floors were now completely engulfed in flames, with part of a sixth floor burning as well. Even from here he could see how intense the inferno was. How long can the Raykier's structure withstand heat that intense? he thought.
Though an ultramodern building, and designed to withstand everything from earthquakes to terrorist attack, the Raykier Building would have a breaking point. All buildings did. If the fire wasn't put out, then eventually key structural supports would give way and the Raykier would fall, and kill everyone who was still inside. We can't let that happen, Scott thought, though putting out a fire of this magnitude and saving the people it has trapped is going to be very difficult even for our equipment.
After a few more moments of carefully scanning the building, and locating as many of the worst hotspots as he could, Scott sighed and changed the sensors focus to ground scan. He needed to locate the field command post that the emergency services had set up. After a moment, he found it in the open air car park of a shopping mall three blocks from the Raykier. The ground scan revealed that the parking area was almost completely empty aside from the emergency service vehicles. Those were all clustered together near the control area, near the entrance. Perfect, he thought, there's plenty of space for us to land.
With ease born of long experience, he got Thunderbird One moving again. He guided her until she was stationary over a clear area of the car park. Then he deployed her wings into landing position, before flipping the switch that lowered and locked the landing gear. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly to steady his nerves. Though the diagnostics had shown that everything was in order, he was a little nervous about his first field landing with the new shock absorbers in the landing gear. Here goes nothing, he thought as he engaged the VTOL jets.
Thunderbird One descended from the sky with easy grace. She set down on the ground with only the faintest of shudders. Scott smiled softly in relief; the new shock absorbers were working like a charm; no unforeseen problems had occurred with them. Scott's hands danced across the control panels, powering most systems down to stand-by mode. The only system that remained at full power was the stealth system that prevented Thunderbird One from being tracked, scanned or photographed.
Here we go, Scott thought as he stood up. Then he headed to the back of Thunderbird One's cockpit to get his helmet, breather pack and Mobile Control out of the storage cabinets. As he started getting out his gear, his mind began working on the possible ways they could rescue the people trapped in the burning Raykier skyscraper. He knew that it wasn't going to be an easy task, not by a long shot.
Benson's Hiding Place
A Few Minutes Earlier
Benson smiled softly as he heard the distinctive sound of Thunderbird One's awesomely powerful engines. Right on time, he thought. He had been monitoring all emergency service communications channels around this area. They had amusing to listen to as the emergency services futilely tried to deal with the situation he had so carefully engineered. One of the many communications he'd overheard was the call to International Rescue. He admitted to himself that the Mexican authorities had taken longer to call for the help of the mighty Thunderbirds than he had originally guessed.
Moving slightly from where he was hiding - between two large air-conditioning units - Benson was able to get a clear look at the Raykier Building. The incredibly sleek form of Thunderbird One hovered, stationary. Benson guessed that her pilot was scanning the Raykier, determining the situation inside the tower. The pilot, whoever he or she was, was currently in the perfect position for him.
Benson grinned as he returned to the location where he had set up Doctor Avoki's relay device. He retrieved the control pad for the relay from his pocket and activated it. A green light appeared on the control pad; for a few moments the light flashed repeatedly then became solid as the relay established a link with the nanospiders hidden inside Thunderbird One. Another light appeared on the control pad and the pads small LCD screen lit up with a progress bar. After a moment, parts of the bar turned red to indicate that the relay was receiving a high-speed, compressed datastream transmission from the nanospiders. Come on, come on, Benson thought, seeing the transmission was only ten percent complete. The Thunderbird won't stay in optimum position forever. Come on, you stupid, little mechanical arachnids, get your transmission butts in gear.
For Benson, time seemed to slow down to a virtual crawl as he watched the progress bar creep ever closer to one hundred percent complete at a virtual snail's pace. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the data transmission from the nanospiders to the relay was complete. The connection between nanospider and relay automatically disconnected, just as Doctor Avoki and his team had intended it to. While they believed it highly unlikely that International Rescue would be able to detect the extremely low frequency transmissions used by the nanospider technology, they weren't about to take any unnecessary chances. International Rescue did have the best sensors and communications equipment on the planet after all.
A change in the sound of Thunderbird One's engines drew Benson's attention to the burning building again. The incredibly advanced flying machine was moving off, no doubt going to find somewhere to land nearby so the Thunderbirds could do their thing. It didn't matter that she was leaving now; he had already accomplished his mission. Time to go, Benson thought, moving back to where he had been hiding to get his tool kit. Before he could leave this area, he would have to dismantle the relay device and put the component parts back in their carry case, ready for the next time the relay was needed. Thankfully, that wouldn't take long at all.
Ten Minutes Later
Scott grimaced as the results of the simulation he had just run appeared on his screen. From the moment he'd arrived, he'd known that the biggest obstacle they would face to getting the people out of the Raykier Building alive would be the fire that was slowly and steadily consuming the huge tower. The simulation showed him just how big a problem it was going to be and how little time they really had.
The simulation predicted that at its current rate of spread, the inferno would engulf ten floors of the tower within another hour. Factoring all known data on the Raykier and the materials used in its construction, plus the data from Thunderbird One's sensors, the simulation projected that it would take ten floors aflame to seriously weaken the structure. Once that occurred, the Raykier Building would begin coming apart from the inside as key structural supports began to buckle from the intense heat. Fireproofing only went so far. Eventually, it would burn off, leaving the naked girders exposed to heat that rivalled a blast furnace for intensity. Once enough of the metal girders buckled, the Raykier would collapse in upon itself, plummeting to the ground and becoming a heap of smouldering rubble. The simulation estimated that final, complete, catastrophic collapse would occur within two to three hours.
That's not going to be enough time, even with our equipment, Scott thought. We're going to have to do something to contain if not extinguish the fire. That's /not going to be easy./ He sighed to himself and thought for a moment, mentally reviewing all the different equipment that he knew Virgil would be carrying aboard Thunderbird Two. The Hornets! he thought in sudden realisation. They would be perfect for the firefighting/containment task. It is one of the functions they were designed to fulfill after all.
The Hornets were small, self-guiding drones about a meter long and half a meter wide. They were equipped with powerful miniature rotors, heavily miniaturised hoverjet engines, sophisticated sensors and an interchangeable, mission specific pod section. They were perfect for scouting or for jobs that would be too difficult or dangerous for him and his brothers to deal with. Not to mention the small drones could get into places that people couldn't. The Hornets were one of Brains' newer inventions - they'd only been used a handful of times - but they were such useful and versatile tools that Thunderbird Two now carried them as standard equipment.
With a quick command to Mobile Control, Scott opened a communications channel to Thunderbird Two.
"Mobile Control to Thunderbird Two," he said into his helmet microphone. Almost immediately the helmet speakers crackled to life.
"Thunderbird Two to Mobile Control. Reading you loud and clear, Scott," Virgil responded. "How does it look there?"
"Not good, Virgil," Scott replied. "The fire burning inside the Raykier Building is extremely intense. We are going to have to either completely extinguish it or at very least contain it before we can even think of getting people out of there."
"Yes. I just ran a simulation with all known information. According to the projections, if the fire is left to burn unchecked the Raykier will undergo catastrophic collapse within three hours. We have no choice but to do something about the fire if we're to have any time at all. What's your ETA?"
For a moment there was silence over the communications link, the only sound being the soft buzzing of the carrier signal. Scott knew though that Virgil would almost certainly be working with Dad to determine Thunderbird Two's exact ETA to the Danger Zone.
"Scott, we make our ETA to Danger Zone to be ten minutes," Virgil said at last.
"F-A-B," Scott replied. "How many Hornets are you carrying?"
"Okay. Here's what I want you to do; send someone back into the pod bay and get those Hornets configured for fire suppression. We are going to need them to deal with this fire in the Raykier Building."
"F-A-B, Scott. Gordon's heading back to the pod bay now to get them ready."
"ETA now nine minutes, Scott."
"F-A-B, Virgil. See you in a few minutes."
"See you in a few minutes, Scott." The channel closed with a bleep. Scott sighed and looked in the direction of the burning skyscraper. Hold on, he thought to the people inside, just hold on for a little while longer. We just hold on for a little while longer. We'll soon have you out of there.
Satoza Enterprises Headquarters Tower
Manhattan, That Same Time
Alexander Satoza leaned comfortably back in his office chair and smiled at the news feed he was watching on his computer screen. Naturally, the top news story of the day so far was the fire at the Raykier Building in Mexico City and the recent arrival of Thunderbird One on the scene. Excellent, Alexander thought, smiling, Benson has really outdone himself this time. I must remember to give him a bonus for this one.
In causing the massive fire at the Raykier Building, Benson had not only brought about a disaster that International Rescue would attend to - which is exactly what Alexander wanted them to do - but he had also engineered a situation that would benefit Alexander in other ways. The Raykier Corporation was a long-term rival to the freight transportation arm of Satoza Enterprises; the destruction of the Raykier Building would seriously weaken that competition, possibly even cause Raykier to lose some of its lucrative contracts. If that happened, Satoza Enterprises would in the perfect position to snap up those contracts as they became available. Benson had really chosen his target well; Alexander would be sure to reward him generously for the favour.
A buzz from the desk intercom terminal made Alexander jump, slightly startled. With a quick command to his computer, he muted the audio part of the news feed, before reaching out and pressing a button on the offending intercom panel.
"Yes, Ms Thomas?" he asked.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, sir, but Doctor Avoki is here to see you," his secretary replied. Alexander smiled as Ms Thomas spoke; he had been expecting the good doctor to come and see him sometime today.
"Very well, Ms Thomas... send him in."
The intercom went dead. Alexander straightened up in his chair into his familiar, all-business pose, and switched off the news feed. After a moment, the door to his office opened and Doctor Avoki came in, carefully closing the door behind him.
"Ah, Doctor Avoki! Good to see you," Alexander said, smiling warmly as the tall, lithe form of his chief scientist approached his desk. "Please, sit down."
"Thank you, sir," Avoki replied, sitting down in the offered seat, directly opposite Alexander.
"I take it you have something to report to me about our little project."
"Yes, sir. We have received the first encrypted databurst from the nanospiders. Preliminary information indicates that the amount of data they were able to gather from studying the inside of Thunderbird One is staggering and incredibly detailed. Even better than we could have hoped for."
"What is it like?"
"We are still in the process of decrypting most of the databurst, but what little I've looked at so far is well and truly amazing. Whoever created the Thunderbird is a genius. Once the decryption is complete, I will make a copy of it for you to keep and view yourself."
"Thank you. Do you think you'll be able to recreate the technology for me, Doctor?"
"I believe so, yes. My team is already working on a few ideas for commercial applications of the technology."
"Excellent! Then the plan can continue. When will the next set of nanospiders be ready for deployment?"
"We have unfortunately had a bit of a glitch which has slowed down the production somewhat. Three nanospider pairs were effectively useless; they refused to accept any programming and had to be destroyed. We have corrected the error and have begun making more nanospiders. I estimate that the next group will be ready for deployment within the next two weeks."
"I see. Well then, Doctor, I had better let you go back to work. I trust you have made sure that the glitch cannot happen again."
"Yes, sir, I have," Avoki replied, standing up.
Doctor Avoki nodded and quietly left the office. Alexander watched him go with a smile, then he brought the news feed back up, just in time to see the blurred form of Thunderbird Two coming in over Mexico City. My plan advances nicely, Alexander thought, International Rescue seems blissfully unaware of the existence of the nanospiders. Soon the technology of the Thunderbirds will be mine. Then I will become the richest man in the world.