Categories > TV > Thunderbirds > Enhanced
Chapter Twenty Two: Not Over Yet
Alan sighed in relief when the sensors on one of the relay satellites designed to monitor the planet below, receive distress calls and relay to Thunderbird Five reported to him that Thunderbirds One and Two were coming out of the mushrooming ash cloud coming up from Mount Baker. Thank God they're okay, he thought in relief; I hate situations where we deal with volcanic eruptions. The loss of long-range communications means that we don't know what's happening. I'll give them a call in a moment but first lets see what else is going on.
He was about to start checking the rest of the relayed data when an alert flashed up on his screen. The smart filters built into the communications system had picked up something that needed immediate attention. Alan instantly turned his attention to the data and frowned when he heard that it was emergency communications traffic from the Fraiser Valley. The ash cloud from Mount Baker was still thin over the part of the valley where the signals were coming from, electrical disruption was far less so the weaker sensors and communications receivers on the relay satellites were not being disrupted. Yet anyway. Keying in a command Alan listened into the signals.
"....that's right sir," a female voice was saying. "Monitor stations in the Fraiser Valley have picked up multiple large mudflows coming down into the valley from Mount Baker. The eruption must have melted a large part of the glacier on the volcanoes summit. We estimate twelve minutes till they reach Abbotsford." Ugh oh, Alan thought as he tapped into the transmission to speak to the emergency teams on the ground. History had shown that volcanic mudflows or to use their proper name lahar's could be big killers indeed because they mixed the fury of a flood with sucking, smothering hot mud. Alan pressed his transmission control.
"International Rescue to ground rescue teams. We have picked up your transmissions. Our people are still in the area do you require assistance," he said. For a moment there was silence and Alan grinned imagining that he had just given someone a hell of a surprise. Finally an audio only transmission came through.
"International Rescue my name is Walter Chelmsford I'm the FEMA deputy director in charge of the evacuation of Abbotsford and surrounding towns. Any assistance you can give us would be greatly appreciated," a powerful male voice responded.
"We will certainly try our best. How can we assist you?"
"I am sure you are aware of the eruption of Mount Baker, I believe you have been assisting some USGS scientists trapped there."
"Yes that is correct."
"Emergency monitoring stations near the mountain have picked up a number of large mudflows coming down the various river valleys from Mount Baker. Some of them are coming right towards Abbotsford. They will be here soon and sweep away everything in their path."
"I gathered as much," Alan answered. "What is the status of your evacuation?"
"All the outlying towns and villages around Abbotsford have been evacuated. But the evacuation of Abbotsford is only seventy percent complete, it will take at least another hour to get everyone out..."
"And the lahar's will reach the city long before that," Alan finished. "Alright we will do what we can to try and slow them down."
"That would be very much appreciated thank you."
"You're welcome. I will contact the others now."
"Alright International Rescue."
Alan grinned then changed frequencies on the communications panel while noting the course and speed of Thunderbirds One and Two. He noticed that neither was going at full speed as they headed towards Seattle to drop off the scientists. Guess they're waiting for the ash filters to clear before they increase speed, he thought before hailing Thunderbird One.
"Thunderbird Five to Thunderbird One," he said. Almost immediately his communications screen came to life showing John's face and upper torso and Alan couldn't help but blink at how different John looked. John's normally blond hair and fair skin were a uniform dark grey from the ash fall from the erupting volcano, his uniform was even worse. The normally light blue uniform and lilac sash were almost black, they had gotten so dirty. Someone definitely needs a shower, he thought.
"Before you say anything Alan I know I need a shower," John said before Alan could speak. "What can I do for you?"
"Bad news I'm afraid John," Alan replied. "Either you or Thunderbird Two needs to go back into the danger zone around Mount Baker." Despite his ash-covered features the frown that appeared on John's face was easy to spot, especially if you knew what you were looking for, like Alan did.
"Okay Alan. Why?" John asked.
"There are a series of lahar's travelling down the various river valleys from Mount Baker. The ongoing eruption has melted a large part of the glacier around the summit. One of the lahars is travelling down the Fraiser Valley towards the city of Abbotsford. The evacuation of the city is far from complete, the FEMA guy in charge reckons that they need another hour to complete evacuation. But they don't have that much time at its current speed the lahar will reach the city in ten minutes."
"I see. Okay Alan I'll take Thunderbird One back towards Mount Baker and head into the Fraiser Valley. I'll see what I can do to slow down that lahar."
"F-A-B, I'll let the FEMA people and Scott know what you're doing."
"Good luck John."
"Thanks Alan I'm going to need it," John replied before breaking the connection from his end. Alan looked at the blank screen for a moment before changing back to the frequency being used by the FEMA personnel evacuating Abbotsford again.
"International Rescue to FEMA Deputy Director Chelmsford," he said. For a moment there was no reply then the radio speakers crackled.
"Go ahead International Rescue. I hope you have some good news for me," Chelmsford's voice responded.
"I do," Alan replied. "Thunderbird One is returning to your area. Her pilot is going to attempt to slow down the approaching lahars. We can't stop them entirely but we can buy you some time, hopefully enough time for you to complete the evacuation."
"I see that will help a lot. Thank you."
"You're welcome," Alan replied then cut the transmission. His hands danced across the consoles surface as he opened a new communications channel, this one to home.
"Thunderbird Five to Tracy Island," he said into the microphone. Immediately the communications screen lit up showing Scott's face.
"Go ahead Alan," Scott said. "What's the latest?"
"Thunderbirds One and Two have left Mount Baker Scott and have cleared the ash cloud. My guess is Thunderbird Two is taking the survivors to the closest medical facility away from the fallout cloud but Thunderbird One has had to return to the danger zone."
"What for?" Scott asked.
"I've been monitoring the local emergency services communications. At least those that I can pick up the interference is getting worse as the eruption intensifies. I've spoken to the FEMA guy in charge of the evacuation of the city of Abbotsford and surrounding towns in the Fraiser Valley. The evacuation of Abbotsford is far from complete and there are lahars from Mount Bakers melting glacier coming down into the Fraiser Valley. John's going back to try and slow the lahars down."
"Lahars? What are they Alan," Tin-Tin asked as she appeared in the video feed.
"Volcanic mudflows Tin-Tin," Alan replied. "They're extremely hot and very destructive. They're basically a boiling flood that sweeps away everything in their path. If a major one hits Abbotsford before the evacuation is complete it could kill hundreds of people."
"I see. I hope John can stop them then."
"Nothing can stop them," Scott explained. "But John can try and block their path with small temporary dams if he get enough rocks into their path."
"Precisely. I'll continue to monitor the situation as well as I can from up here," Alan said.
"F-A-B, Alan. Keep me appraised of any developments."
"F.A.B," Alan answered with a smile before cutting the signal to the island and looking at the scanner tracking Thunderbirds One and Two again. Thunderbird One was just disappearing back under the edge of the ash cloud and sensor lock was becoming unsteady. Good luck John, he thought.
Carefully John guided Thunderbird One back under the still spreading mushroom cloud of ash and gas rising from the erupting volcano. He flew carefully to stay out of the worst of the fallout, even here some distance from Mount Baker the amount of ash coming down was still very intense, but he couldn't avoid it all. And there was another problem to contend with, another obstacle that the volcano had thrown his way.
Between the massive electrical storm ranging through the cloud, throwing massive forks of pure energy between different areas of charge, and the falling ash and cinders John found that Thunderbird One's sensors unreliable. Long-range scans were useless, even short range was disrupted and distorted. So he was having to fly carefully, guiding Thunderbird One through the maelstrom to her destination - the Fraiser River valley, less he crash into something that he couldn't see. I hate these kinds of conditions, John thought, and I know Scott does as well. We should talk to Brains see if he can come up with some sensors that can see through this kind of chaos.
He made a mental note to speak to Brains about it later, then put it out of his thoughts for now. He was going to need every bit of concentration and skill he had to reach his destination, somehow stop the lahar's and get out of the fallout zone without crashing into anything.
After a moment he crossed the last ridge and below him was the Fraiser Valley, here close to Mount Baker it was relatively narrow though it broadened out further down towards the towns and Abbotsford. With a flick of a switch John turned on Thunderbird One's searchlight and swept the valley below. The lahar was easy to spot, it was still up the valley from his current position but he saw it clearly even though the incredibly powerful search light kept glimmering constantly as ash fell through it. The lahar was a virtual wall of boiling, rolling water, mud, ash and rocks sweeping down the valley at very high speed toppling every tree in its path as it did so. Giant cedar trees that had stood proud and strong for centuries were being toppled like matchsticks so great was the flows awesome force.
Watching the mighty, ancient trees that even modern power saws found difficult to fell falling so easily under the power of the mudflow filled John with a profound sense of humility. And a realisation that compared to nature's power even the advanced technology of International Rescues was nothing. How am I to even slow that thing down, John wondered, that lahar is massive, the force of the flow enormous. Stopping it is impossible, so how to slow it down. Give the authorities time to complete the evacuation. He pondered the problem for a few moments then smiled as an idea came to him. He could slow the flow down with a dam, it wouldn't hold against the flow for long, in fact the flow would probably go over the top of the dam but it would reduce the flows force considerably and trap much of the larger debris. Just where to build a dam and how, he thought checking the sensors as he moved Thunderbird One further ahead of the flow.
A good place immediately presented itself, ahead the valley narrowed slightly before it broadened out again. On either side were almost vertical walls of rock, the incline too steep for any plants to latch onto. A rockslide perfect, John thought even as he armed Thunderbird One's weapons systems and selected two missiles from the weapons inventory that appeared on one of the screens. Carefully John targeted what he estimated were the best spots on the rock face then taking a deep breath, and offering a prayer for success before he fired. A hatch opened in Thunderbird One's underside and two missiles dropped clear, immediately their engines flared to life and the smart weapons streaked away. Two powerful concussive explosions erupted moments later as the missiles impacted the rock face, the blasts momentarily blinding John to the effects.
As his vision cleared he saw cracks spreading across the near vertical walls of rock as the imparted energy from the missiles fractured the rocks along natural plains of weakness and faults between the different layers of rock strata. Small pebbles were falling free as in what seemed to be slow motion the rock face started to break up.
"Come on, come on," John said softly. "Do it. Fall."
After what seemed like an eternity though it was only a few minutes - the rock faces unable to withstand the sudden stress they were under and the pull of gravity collapsed. Instantly millions of tons of rock began falling from both cliffs slamming into the valley below creating a small earthquake even as they threw up a massive cloud of dust. John turned Thunderbird One's sensors on the valley floor, penetrating the dust cloud even as the avalanche of rock slowed then finally stopped.
The sensors revealed that a wall of rock twenty metres high now blocked the valley. Even as he watched the lahar reached the impromptu dam, a massive splash wave like an ocean wave breaking on the shore erupted as the flow of superheated mud, ash and log's hit the wall. When the splash wave cleared he could see that the lahar had been stopped. The dam of rock was holding against the immense pressure of the mudflow, the flow was pilling up against the dam and eventually would go over the top but not for awhile and when it did top the dam John knew its force would be radically reduced.
"Yes," John said, even as he released the breath he hadn't even been aware that he was holding. "It worked."
A sudden urgent bleeping from the sensors interrupted his euphoria and John turned his full attention to them and his blue eyes went wide in horror. There was the massive, glowing cloud known as a pyroclastic surge coming down the valley, travelling at terrifying speed. Speed that was being further increased by the fact that the surge was riding on the cushion of steam rising from the lahar. The sensors reported that the surge was travelling at over two hundred miles per hour.
And it was coming right for Thunderbird One.
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