A ruthless industrialist hatches a devious plot to steal the secrets of international rescue while Scott wrestles with a deep personal dilemma.
Five Minutes Later
Gordon Tracy grunted softly as Virgil fixed a heavy-duty life support pack into place on his back. Since he would be operating the Firefly's open dicetylene cannon turret, he had to wear a specialised protective suit that looked somewhat like a sleeker, more high-tech, earthbound version of a spacesuit. The complex materials and technology employed in the suit would protect him from the intense heat and the toxic environment inside the plant.
"You know, I wish Brains would find a way to improve this suit," Gordon said, standing stock still as Virgil fixed in place the locking collar for the helmet.
"I know what you mean," Virgil agreed, having worn the suit himself in the past. "It's a pain to get in and out of and it's awkward to move in until you've gotten used to it."
"Exactly," Gordon replied. "That's why I hate wearing the thing. Give me a scuba diving wetsuit any day."
Virgil chuckled as he picked up the suit's helmet. It was no secret in the Tracy family that Gordon was in love with the sea, and with anything to do with being in water. He had been since he was five and had first seen the sea.
"For you, Gordon, anything relating to being in the water is the best thing in the world," Virgil said as he approached, carrying the helmet. Gordon laughed.
"True, Virg, true," he replied, still chuckling. Virgil grinned back before slipping the helmet over his younger brother's head, locking it into place and making sure all the connections were in properly and secured.
Gordon grinned when the helmet's heads up display activated and all the readings from the suit's sensors showed green. He gave Virgil a thumbs up with one gloved hand to let him know that everything was fine and that the suit's systems were working properly. Virgil smiled and gave him an acknowledging thumbs up in return.
At that moment, their father approached from where he had been preparing the Firefly. He was wearing a thinner, less complex version of the suit Gordon was wearing, as he would be driving the Firefly. Gordon would only have to worry about operating the turret and its powerful cannons.
"Ready to go, boys?" Jeff asked them.
"F.A.B., Dad," Virgil replied.
"F.A.B., Dad," Gordon echoed. Jeff smiled.
"OK, boys," he replied. "Then let's get these machines moving; the sooner we have this fire out and the trapped staff saved, the better."
"F.A.B. Dad," Gordon and Virgil chorused in unison. Jeff smiled again, then spun around and headed back towards the Firefly. Gordon followed, his footsteps echoing slightly through the primary pod thanks to the heavy boots of his suit. For his part, Virgil headed towards the Mole, ready and eager to begin his part of the rescue operation.
Scott looked up from his console at the sound of someone clearing their throat. He smiled behind his helmet faceplate when he saw that it was Captain Fernandez.
"Yes, Enrique?" Scott asked, the fire brigade captain had insisted that they use first names. Something that struck Scott as odd, but he was willing to go with it.
"I thought I should let you know, Scott, that we've deployed all our trucks, portable hoses and platforms around the remaining fire area," Enrique replied. "There is now only one gap in our coverage and that's one area inside the plant itself. If you can place your firefighting machine in that gap..."
"Then we can launch a massive, concentrated assault on the fire," Scott finished the statement, the smile on his face was matched by the smile in his voice.
"Precisely," Enrique answered, holding out a piece of paper. "This has the positions of all our units and how much foam each one has."
"Thank you," Scott said, accepting the list. "I'll direct Firefly to the correct position now. Then we can put this particular beast of a fire out."
Scott turned back to his console and added the positions of the fire appliances and deployed firefighters to the real time map he'd built of the danger zone, using a mixture of the plant's plans and Thunderbird Five's sensor feed. The gap in the coverage was obvious, deep inside the plant where the fire brigade's hoses and platforms couldn't reach.
"Mobile Control to Firefly," Scott said into his helmet radio.
"Go ahead, Scott," Jeff responded immediately.
"I have new destination co-ordinates for you, Jeff," he replied, managing not to flinch at using his father's first name, instead of just the normal Dad. Though they had been operating for close on four years, and Jeff had specifically told them to use his name, it still always felt strange to Scott to use his father's name while out in the danger zone.
"F.A.B., Scott. Ready to receive," Jeff answered.
"F.A.B., sending now." As he spoke, Scott pressed a button on his console, instantly transferring the co-ordinates of the gap in the fire coverage from Mobile Control to the Firefly.
"Co-ordinates received, Scott. Heading there now."
"F.A.B. Notify me when you're in position."
"Mole to Mobile Control," Virgil said over the radio just as Jeff signed off.
"Go ahead, Virgil," Scott answered.
"I'm in drilling position, Scott," Virgil replied.
"F.A.B., Virgil. You're clear to commence drilling. Good luck."
"F.A.B. Thanks, Scott."
Gordon grimaced as - under the expert guidance of his father - Firefly made its way deep into the shattered chemical plant towards the remaining burning area. All around was a depressing, hellish scene of total devastation.
Still softly smoking metal was everywhere, blackened and scorched, or twisted into bizarre masses where the metal had started to melt. His suit's sensors reported that even where the fire had been put out by the earlier extinguisher missile assaults, it was still fiercely hot. It would be days before everything completely cooled down.
"What a mess," Gordon muttered to himself.
"Did you say something, Gordon?" Jeff asked along the private, two-way radio link that was constantly maintained between the Firefly's driver and turret operator.
"It's nothing," Gordon replied. "It's just this place is a mess." The edges of his lips curved up in a smile as he heard his father chuckle.
"I can't argue with that," Jeff answered. "It's almost as bad as your room."
Gordon blushed at his father's not very subtle dig at the fact that his room was in desperate need of a thorough clean. Before he could summon up a rejoinder, Firefly rounded a corner and the words died on his tongue. Directly ahead of them was the fire front.
It was a terrible sight. A short distance ahead, the road disappeared into a massive curtain of roaring, dirty, yellow-orange flames. They dominated the whole horizon, towering over them before disappearing into the overwhelming black mass of the fallout cloud. Looking at the fire, Gordon swallowed once, fighting down the deep, primal instinct that was screaming at him to run, to flee from the awesome power of the elemental force unleashed upon the chemical plant.
After a moment, Firefly began moving again, creeping forward towards the inferno. Gordon looked down at the turret controls and double checked that everything was ready to go, more for his own peace of mind than anything else.
"You ready, Gordon?" Jeff asked as he again brought Firefly to a dead stop. There was now only a few metres between the wall of flame and the front of the Firefly.
"As ready as I can be, Dad," Gordon answered. "Let's do this."
"F.A.B. Let me just let Scott know that we're in position and ready to start."
Scott straightened up slightly in his seat as the speakers in his helmet radio crackled to life once more.
"Firefly to Mobile Control," Jeff said. "Scott, we're in position, ready to commence attack."
"F.A.B., Jeff," Scott replied. "Stand by."
Scott turned in his seat to look over at Captain Fernandez. Enrique Fernandez broke off the conversation that he had been having with a newly arrived fire crew chief when he saw Scott turn to face him.
"Yes, Scott?" he asked.
"Firefly's in position, Enrique," Scott replied. "We're ready."
"Then let's do this," Enrique answered before using his HAZMAT suit's helmet radio. "Control to all fire units; start your pumps."
As Enrique spoke to the eagerly waiting teams of firefighters, Scott turned back to Mobile Control.
"Mobile Control to Firefly," he said into his helmet radio. "Commence attack."
"F.A.B., Scott," Jeff replied.
Listening in on the main communications frequency, Gordon grinned as he heard Scott give the order he had been waiting to hear.
"Did you hear, Gordon?" Jeff asked over the private, short-range link.
"I heard, Dad," Gordon replied as he released all the safety locks on the turret and set the pumps to their maximum safe pressure level of 500 psi. "Activating dicetylene cannons now." As he spoke, his right hand slammed down on the control to activate the cannons.
Streams of greenish-white dicetylene exploded from the muzzles of the turret cannons. Propelled by immense pressure, the twin streams impacted the wall of flame almost instantly. Immediately flames shrunk, spluttered, then vanished as the dicetylene broke two parts of the triangle all fires needed to burn.
Gordon began rotating the turret in a sweeping left to right, right to left arc, constantly pumping out dicetylene, as the Firefly began inching forward. I wonder how Virgil's getting on with the Mole, he thought as flames flickered and died all around the path of the Firefly, snuffed out by the remorseless dicetylene assault.
That Same Time
Virgil smiled when he felt the vibration of the Mole change under him. From long experience in the field, he knew that the change meant that he was through the bedrock into an open space. A quick glance at the instrument panels confirmed that the Mole had penetrated into the section of the city's utility tunnel network that ran under the chemical plant.
Calmly, Virgil powered down the engines, shutting down the drilling heads and killing all forward momentum. Then he stood up and headed into the back passenger compartment where the hatch to the outside world was located. Pausing at the hatch, Virgil put his helmet and breather pack back on, before picking up his emergency kit.
"Mole to Mobile Control," he said into his helmet radio.
"Go ahead, Virgil," Scott replied immediately.
"I've broken through to the utility tunnels, Scott," Virgil answered as he tripped the Mole's hatch. "Leaving the Mole now."
"F.A.B., Virgil," Scott replied. "Be careful. Given the force of the blasts overhead in the plant, there could well be some damage down there."
"I'll be careful, Scott," Virgil reassured his brother.
"I know you will, Virgil," Scott replied, then broke the connection from his end. Virgil sighed and stepped out of the Mole into the large open space under most of the chemical plant.
As he did so, his helmet's HUD brought up a detailed 3D map of the underground tunnels. Both the positions of the Mole and his objective - the ladder up into the control bunker - were clearly marked, so there was no danger of getting lost in the virtual underground maze of the utility tunnels.
Virgil turned on the torch he had strapped to his left forearm. The beam from the small, but very powerful torch cut through the darkness of the tunnels like a hot knife through butter. Dust motes glimmered like tiny speckles of gold as they passed through the beam, and all around Virgil could see signs of damage in this part of the tunnel system. Many ducts had broken, the cables they carried hanging down limply and water was slowly seeping out of a cracked water pipe, producing a drip, drip sound that echoed in the silent open area.
With another sigh, Virgil started walking, following the directions indicated on his helmet map. Hang on their people, he thought, thinking of the people trapped in the control bunker. I'm coming.