Categories > Movies > Thunderbirds > Glitch
Authors Note: This story is set six years after the end of the movie.
Alan Tracy sighed in relief as he finished stowing away all the supplies that had been brought up with him from Tracy Island. It had taken longer than he would have thought to stow away all the various supplies, it had certainly taken longer than what he was used to, but then again this time there was only one pair of hands - his own - available to put things away.
Today was the start of his first solo tour of duty on board International Rescue's top secret and recently upgraded - again - space station. Previous times when he had been aboard Thunderbird Five he had always been in the company of at least one of his brothers, he'd even spent three full monthly rotations up here alone with John learning what went on up here and what was required. He had always liked coming up here in training, he liked it up here even though it took him away from direct field action. A fact that he knew still struck his older brothers and fathers as something that was somewhat unbelievable.
Alan smiled remembering how astounded they had all been when he had said about relieving John and taking a monthly rotation himself. Everyone had been astonished - except for one person. That person being John; because unlike everyone else he had known that it was coming. During their long periods alone together up here Alan had found himself increasingly coming to share John's passion for space. John had just made everything so interesting, so fascinating, unlike the teachers had in school. They just taught cold, boring facts and while there was pure science in what John had spoken to him about John had made it interesting in away that the teachers and lecturers never did or never could have done. After all they didn't love their subject like John did. It was the enthusiasm and love that had been in his voice that had initially gotten Alan interested and eventually gotten him hooked. During their time here they had discovered that they were more alike than they had ever believed they could be.
With a soft sigh Alan cast a long last look around the main storage room, making sure that everything was in order then he left the room heading for the sleeping quarters to get out his spare uniforms and put them and the other bits and bobs he had brought with him from his island home away. As he walked he thought a little bit about John and where he knew John would be going to. He knew that John would after putting his stuff away on the island head off to the US for two weeks to see Pauline.
A grin appeared on Alan's features as he thought about Pauline Chandler. John had met her two years ago last month - at a high school reunion party that he had attended; after much badgering and nagging from his brothers and even from Dad. Pauline was a brilliant amateur astronomer who made her living as an emergency medical doctor in a busy Miami, Florida hospital. John had been absolutely smitten with her from the moment they had met and now spent a lot of his free time with her. Whenever he could get away from Tracy Island and International Rescue it was always Pauline that he went to. It was obvious to everyone that John was deeply, deeply in love with Pauline. They'd all met Pauline and it was obvious that the feeling was mutual; they had all gotten the feeling that John and Pauline were right for each other. Now it was only a question of when John would pluck up the courage to ask Pauline the question, Alan personally knew that John desperately wanted to but could never find the right moment. Who knows maybe he will ask her this time, he thought with a smile as he reached the living quarters, I hope he does. It would be nice; they obviously love each other deeply and obviously desperately want to be together forever. They should get married. Who knows what would happen then.
After crossing over to the bed Alan was about to open his duffle bag when a faint change in the distant background humming of the stations fusion core caught his attention and overhead the lights flickered, went out for a moment, then came back on. He looked up with a puzzled frown. Odd, he thought, John didn't mention anything about there being any fluctuations in Thunderbird Five's power supply before he left this morning. Putting my uniforms away can wait I better go to the control room and run a diagnostic on the stations power systems.
Turning away from the bed Alan hurried out of the living quarters to go to the main control room.
That Same Time
Scott Tracy smiled as he watched John climb aboard the family's personal jet Tracy One, more than ready to leave the island and go see Pauline. I do wish those two would hurry up and get married, he thought, though John still hasn't told Pauline about what we actually do. I know he's spoken to Dad about telling her a few times.
"Have fun John," he called after the younger brother who was closest to him in age. John poked his head back out of Tracy One's hatch and grinned at him.
"I will Scott don't worry," John replied. "I just can't wait to get to US and see Pauline. It's been a month since I last saw her and we're planning to go out for a meal together."
"Are you going to ask her the question?"
John rolled his eyes slightly in mock exasperation. Everyone kept nagging him about that, he knew it was only out of love though. They all knew just how much he loved Pauline, and how much he wanted to ask her to marry him so they could spend the rest of their lives together. Truth be told he was planning to ask her tonight when they were went out to the nice romantic meal that they had so carefully planned, though he wasn't about to admit that. Plus Scott was hardly one to talk about such things; he picked up girlfriends like no tomorrow, when he did actually leave Tracy Island which wasn't that often. He only left now for business reasons or when Dad directly ordered him to take a holiday away from Tracy Island and the stresses of being International Rescue. With Scott girlfriends seldom lasted more than one or two dates; in many ways Scott was the classic ladies man.
"I might," John answered at last. "We will have to see."
"If you do I hope she says yes John," Scott replied smiling. John smiled back.
"I hope so too Scott."
"I better not keep you from her then," Scott said. "Go on get out of here. Before a distress call comes in and you get roped into going to a danger zone with the rest of us." John laughed at the mock suffering tone of voice that Scott used.
"Well someone has to do it," he replied grinning. "Plus you love it really, especially the flying Thunderbird One bits."
"Very true, I'm not going to deny that I love flying Thunderbird One anymore than you love being on Thunderbird Five. I hope Alan's okay up there."
"He'll be fine Scott don't worry," John answered reassuringly. "Alan knows the stations systems as well as I do, I made sure of that. Plus he likes being up there and he's good at the job."
"I guess," Scott admitted knowing just how much Alan had grown up over the last six years. Not only was he now a man in height and size - though he would still be classed as a minor till next year - but in terms of personality he was a man now as well. Everything that had made Alan was still very much there, the stubbornness, the rebelliousness, courage, the happy-go-lucky attitude was all there, but it was tempered now, balanced out by sense of responsibility, compassion, understanding and professionalism. Alan had become a man, but still he couldn't help always thinking of him as his baby brother and wanting to protect him, he was still in the process of letting go, of admitting to himself that Alan was old enough to be on his own. Hard to break the habit of a lifetime isn't it Scott Tracy, he told himself.
"I won't delay you anymore John," he said at last shaking off his thoughts about Alan. "Go on. I'll see you in a week."
"See you in a week Scott," John replied and disappeared inside Tracy One and closing the hatch behind him.
Scott smiled to himself and took a few steps back until he was standing beside one of the palm trees that lined the runway, standing on the narrow grassy strip that separated the runway from the dense, tropical jungle that dominated much of the island. After a moment he heard Tracy One's twin scramjet engines start up, he watched as the sleek, state of the air jet began taxing along the runway, picking up speed constantly. Good luck John, he thought as Tracy One's nose wheel lifted off the ground, I hope Pauline says yes when you ask her.
He watched Tracy One until she was out of his sight, heading North West towards the United States. Then he sighed, before turning and walking away, heading for the path through the jungle that would take him back to the main villa complex.
Twelve Minutes Later
Alan frowned as he read through the results of the thorough diagnostic that he had run on Thunderbird Five's systems to find out what had caused the power to fluctuate. The diagnostic showed that there was nothing wrong with the fusion core nor was anything wrong with the power distribution system. Electrical power was flowing evenly to all areas of the space station, there seemed to be nothing to account for the fluctuation in power. Yet Alan knew there had to be a reason somewhere and he knew he had to find it. Engineering classes had drilled into him that tiny intermittent problems could quickly transform themselves into major problems if they weren't caught and dealt with.
After a moment he saw the readings for power flows to this deck fluctuate a moment before the overhead lights and all the control room monitors dimmed and in some cases went off. What the devil is going on here, he thought a moment before a strange, disorientating lightness filled him and he found himself lifting into the air. All around loose items also lifted into the air. Gravity plating failure, he thought as he drifted in the air trying to remember John's instructions in how to move in zero gravity. John had taught him how to move in zero-g for such instances as this one.
After several seconds the lights and console displays returned to normal brightness and Alan was yanked back to the floor, landing with a jarring impact that knocked the wind from his lungs. For another second it felt like there was an elephant sitting on him, he couldn't move. It felt like his arms and legs had been filled with lead weights. He couldn't move a muscle and he guessed that when it had come back on the gravity plating had come on at a much greater level than it should do. After a few more moments of helpless inactivity on the deck the gravity returned to normal and gasping Alan got his feet back under him.
"Okay what is up the station," he gasped as he got his breath back. Returning to the console he reclaimed his seat and recalling what he had seen happen to the power flow to this deck ordered the computer to run a diagnostic on this part of the stations energy grid.
Since the scan was focused on a specific section of the stations power system the computer took less than a minute to bring back the results and Alan frowned as he read them. Again the computer was reporting that there was nothing wrong. According to the computer power flows were normal, there were no fluctuations at all. A quick check of the power usage logs also confirmed to him that the stations computer had not recorded any of the fluctuations in power. Okay this makes no sense, Alan thought a moment before the lights and monitors dimmed again, he braced himself against the console for another failure in gravity but thankfully the gravity remained steady this time and the power returned to normal after less than three seconds. Think I better call in some expert help, Alan thought reaching forward across the console to the radio controls. This is getting somewhat ridiculous.
"Thunderbird Five to Tracy Island," he said into the radio mentally crossing his fingers that the infernal thing would be working, as there was no telling how the strange power fluctuations could affect the communications system. I hope it has no effect, Alan thought, this station is the main hub of our communications network. If something goes wrong with it were in trouble.
Jeff Tracy stretched once then stood up, wincing at the stabs of arthritis in his knees, he was increasingly noticing it these days though he was very fit for a man his age. For a fifty-seven year old man he was very fit and very strong, a lifetime of physical fitness from his days working on his parents farm, to the air force and NASA, to International Rescue paying dividends. Arthritis was practically the only ailment he was starting to suffer from, but then everyone got that as they got older.
He was just easing away from his desk to go and help himself to some coffee - he knew that Kyrano and Onaha would be busy preparing dinner so he wasn't about to bother them - when his computer chimed for attention. The specific chime it used had him back in his chair almost instantly, the need to get a cup of coffee forgotten. The chime was the signal that indicated an incoming communication from Thunderbird Five. With a quick flick of a switch he answered the hail and Alan's face appeared on the computer screen.
"Hey Alan what can I do for you," he said wondering if Alan was getting lonely already. Though Alan had seemed to be looking forward to spending some time alone up on Thunderbird Five, maybe it was now hitting Alan how lonely it was up there. After all this time he didn't have John to talk to.
"Hi Dad," Alan replied. "Is Brains there? I need some advice off him."
"He's not here he's in his lab with Fermat I think," Jeff answered. "I can get him here though. What's wrong Alan?"
"There's something wrong with the power supply to this deck Dad," Alan explained. "Periodically I'm loosing power, almost loosing main power completely. When it happens I almost completely loose the lights and the gravity plating fluctuates like mad. It's happened three times now, though the gravity plating has only played up once." Jeff frowned in concern. Any malfunction on Thunderbird Five that affected the power systems was extremely serious, it was on those systems that everything relied, including life support.
"Have you run diagnostics," he asked Alan, noting out the corner of his eyes Scott poke his head curiously into the room. Scott had been passing and hearing his father talking to Alan had poked his head in to see what was up. At Jeff's gesture Scott walked fully into the room.
"I have they found nothing," Alan replied. "I also checked the power usage logs. The computer hasn't recorded any of the power outages. As far as the computer is concerned everything is fine with both the fusion core and the power distribution grid."
"That doesn't sound good," Scott said softly though Alan wouldn't hear him, as the voice pickup was directional. "Shall I go and get Brains Dad?" Jeff nodded and Scott turned and hurriedly left the room to go and get Brains from his lab where the islands two resident geniuses would be working, no doubt on some new invention.
"Alan Scott has just gone to get Brains," Jeff told Alan.
"F-A-B, Da..." Alan's voice abruptly cut off and his face disappeared from the computer screen. Jeff frowned in concerned and his hands danced across his keyboard opening a channel to Thunderbird Five.
"Tracy Island to Thunderbird Five," he said into the voice pickup. "Tracy Island to Thunderbird Five respond. Alan can you hear me? Tracy Island to Thunderbird Five. Alan if you can hear me please respond." Silence was Jeff's only answer. Not good, not good at all, Jeff thought a moment before the incoming signal chirp sounded again. Jeff answered the hail and Alan reappeared on the screen though Jeff could see that his youngest son was floating in front of the camera, obviously artificial gravity had gone down on the station.
"Sorry about that Dad," Alan said. "I lost almost all power on this level again and gravity plating has now gone down again."
"Its okay Alan you had me worried there," Jeff replied.
"Sorry Dad. Whoa." Abruptly Alan dropped out of range of the video pickup and around him Jeff could see loose items like electronic pad's falling from the air as well. For a few moments he didn't see Alan though he frowned as he heard some very colourful swearing coming from his youngest. Alan was practically turning the air blue up there.
"Language Alan," he said firmly as Alan climbed back to his feet.
"Sorry Dad," Alan replied. "When I find what gremlin has gotten into this station I am so going to kill it." Jeff laughed.
"You and me both Alan," he said. "And I dare say John will join in when he finds out what's going on up there."
"He's not there now is he?" Alan asked.
"No he's gone off to the mainland to see Pauline," Jeff replied.
"Well there is a big surprise. You know Dad I wish they would just get it over with and get married. It's obvious that they want to be together."
Jeff laughed understanding Alan's feeling completely. He even shared it. He knew John loved Pauline deeply, she was practically all he would talk about sometimes and Jeff knew that John and Pauline had regular talks via the Internet when John was on duty up on Thunderbird Five. He had to admit Pauline was a lovely woman, though she didn't know anything about International Rescue yet, but if she and John did get married Jeff would have no objections to her joining the team. If that is what she wished to do.
"You could say the same about you and Tin-Tin," he pointed out and was rewarded with a bright blush appearing on Alan's cheeks and Alan looking away embarrassed. It was no secret either in the Tracy family that Alan and Tin-Tin were completely smitten with each other and had been since just after that incident six years ago with the Hood. Alan looked back into the camera and Jeff could tell he was about to comment but he cut him off when he saw Scott come back in followed by Brains though there was no sign of Fermat.
"Alan Brains is here," Jeff said and smiled slightly when he saw the look of relief appear on Alan's face. Jeff stood up and moved aside gesturing for Brains to sit in the seat in his place. Brains did so and looked curiously at Alan.
"Hi Alan. Scott s...s...said your have some p...p...problems up there," Brains said.
"Hi Brains. That's an understatement if ever there was one," Alan replied. "There is something seriously wrong with the power system up here Brains."
"I s...s...see," Brains replied instantly concerned, his brain going into diagnostic mode so he could help determine what the problem with Thunderbird Five's systems was. "T...t...tell me e...e...everything Alan."
Alan nodded and began the story from the beginning starting with the first power fluctuation to the most recent one that had affected both communications and artificial gravity. He did not miss out that the comprehensive diagnostic programs in Thunderbird Five's computer couldn't detect the fault and the computer wasn't logging the fluctuations in power. Brains frowned in concern as he listened to what Alan told him all the while trying to think about what particular system or component that could be causing the problems plaguing Thunderbird Five. Of all the many systems that there were on board the space station there were only a handful that could cause the kind of problems Alan was describing, the problem was that without the assistance of Thunderbird Five's computer finding the right one would be difficult. He certainly wouldn't be able to find it from down here.
"What do you think it could be Brains," Alan asked after letting Brains think about it for a few moments.
"W...w...well the problem Alan o...o...obviously has something to do with the p...p...power grid," Brains replied. "S...s...something is obviously i...i...intermittently disrupting the energy flow from the f...f...fusion core and a...a...affecting the d...d...diagnostic sensors and monitor p...p...programs."
"Sounds feasible Brains but what could do that," Scott asked. Surprisingly the answer did not come from Brains but from Alan.
"There are a number of systems that could cause a fault like that Scott," Alan replied. "But without the assistance of the computer it would be difficult to isolat..." Alan's voice abruptly cut off as his image darkened then vanished from the screen. Scott blinked startled then guessed that the loss of communication was related to the problem on board the space station.
"It looks like we do have a serious problem," Scott commented. "The problem is how to do we find the cause without the aide of the stations computer."
"T...t...there is only one way," Brains replied. "M...m...manually c...c...check all the p...p...possible systems. To d...d...do that I would have to g...g...go up there." Jeff frowned thoughtfully.
"Well Thunderbird Three will be fully refuelled by now," he said. "I could easily take you up their Brains. How long would it take you to get your diagnostic equipment together?" Before Brains could answer the incoming signal chirp sounded from Jeff's computer again.
"That's bound to be Alan," Scott said. Jeff nodded in agreement even as he reached past Brains and pressed the control to answer the hail.
As Scott had predicted Alan's face appeared on the screen, though Alan looked a bit battered this time. His normally neatly combed light blond hair messed up and his uniform a little rumbled. It didn't escape anyone's notice that the lighting on Thunderbird Five was slightly dimmer than it normally was.
"Sorry about that," Alan said. "Power went out again. It's not come back at full this time."
"H...h...how much p...p...power has come back," Brains asked concerned.
"About eighty-five percent," Alan replied. "Though according to the computer there has been no drop in power and the energy logs say there is still full power to this deck. I wish I knew what script the computers reading from." That last comment met with chuckles from Brains, Jeff and Scott. At least Alan's sense of humour was still intact.
"That isn't good the malfunction is definitely getting worse," Jeff said. "Okay Alan here is what's going to happen. I'll bring Brains up there in Thunderbird Three. We'll have to check all the systems that could be malfunctioning manually since the computer isn't being very helpful today. In the meantime instruct the relay satellites to forward any distress calls directly here to the island. We can't afford to loose a call for help midway through from a power outage up there."
"F-A-B, Dad," Alan replied. "I'll do that now. How long will it take you to get up here Dad?" Jeff glanced at Brains for an answer.
"It w...w...will t...t...take about t...t...ten minutes for me to get my e...e...equipment together Mr Tracy," Brains answer. "Add in the t...t...time it will take after l...l...launch to r...r...rendezvous with the s...s...space station I estimate we will be with Alan in an h...h...hour." On the screen Alan nodded.
"I'll be waiting," Alan replied. "See you in an hour."
"See you in an hour Alan," Jeff answered. Alan nodded and broke the connection from his end. Jeff sighed and turned to Scott.
"Scott go and tell Virgil and Gordon where we are going, then come back here to run command and control while we're away," he said. "The three of you will have to stay here in case a distress call comes in, but Virgil and Gordon have to know what is going on."
"Okay, Dad," Scott replied. "I'll tell them. I hope you can find and fix the fault with Thunderbird Five quickly."
"So do I Scott, so do I," Jeff answered. "We can't afford to have Thunderbird Five malfunctioning like it is. Not only could it lead to us missing a call for help but more importantly is dangerous for whoever is up there."
Scott nodded in agreement then turned and left the room to go find Virgil and Gordon and brief them on what was going on with Thunderbird Five. Jeff for his part turned to Brains.
"Go and get your things Brains," he instructed, "while I go and prep Thunderbird Three for launch."
"Y...y...yes Mr Tracy," Brains replied standing up and easing past Jeff before leaving the room. Jeff followed heading straight for one of the access points to the underground complex and the great red rocket known as Thunderbird Three.
That Same Time
After cutting the communications link with home, Alan sat thoughtfully at the main console for a few moments. He was glad that Brains and Dad were coming up here to help him locate the fault plaguing Thunderbird Five's power systems, but he didn't just want to sit here and wait until they showed up.
"Might as well get started myself," he said to himself standing up and leaving the control. There was some portable diagnostic equipment stored in equipment locker four - he remembered John showing it to him - with that in his hands he would be able to start chasing down the illusive glitch in Thunderbird Five's systems.
One Hour Later
With short steady bursts from the manoeuvring jets Jeff skilfully guided Thunderbird Three into a manual docking with Thunderbird Five. Given the problem that there was on board the space station he did not want to risk using the Automated Docking System, a power outage during the delicate operation of docking could have been disastrous. It could have easily led to their deaths.
So Jeff had opted not to take the risk of using the ADS and instead to dock manually. As he did so though he couldn't help but remember the last time Thunderbird Three had done a manual docking with the space station had been six years ago when the ADS and many other systems had been knocked off line by the Hoods missile attack on Thunderbird Five. With effort Jeff pushed those unpleasant memories away and focused on the delicate docking operation.
After a few more careful, painstaking manoeuvres Thunderbird Three shuddered slightly as a hard dock was achieved with the troubled space station. Jeff checked all his instruments and smiled when they confirmed a hard airtight seal and that the docking tube between Thunderbird Three's airlock and Thunderbird Five's airlock was being pressurised.
"We've got a hard dock," he said aloud. "Airlock umbilical locked in place and being pressurised. All docking clamps engaged and holding." With a quick gesture he released his seat restraint and stood up before turning to look at Brains. "Come on Brains lets get in there and find whichever gremlin is fouling up the stations systems."
"Y...y...yes Mr Tracy," Brains replied releasing his own restraint and standing up. Jeff smiled, then turned away and headed for the airlock, with Brains only a few steps behind him.
The moment he stepped out of the airlock onto Thunderbird Five Jeff was struck by four things, first that the lights were way down low, almost completely off, almost as if Thunderbird Five was in power down mode. Second that there was a distinct nip in the air, a coldness that brought memories back of the cold late autumn mornings back when he'd been living on his parents farm in Kansas. Third that he could barely move, it felt like his arms and legs had been filled with lead, obviously the gravity plating in the control room was up the creek again generating a stronger gravitational field than it should. Fourth that aside from himself and Brains there was no one in the control room, certainly there was no sign of Alan anywhere.
"Where's Alan," Jeff wondered aloud, he had expected that Alan would have been waiting for them in the control room. Surely Thunderbird Five's sensors would have detected their approach, unless whatever was mucking up the power grid was affecting them as well.
"I'm right here Dad," Alan's voice answered from off to the right, in the direction of the corridor that connected the control room to the rest of the station. In the heavy gravity currently gripping the control room Jeff laboured to turn his head in that direction. Peering through the gloom he faintly made out a human form lying flat on the deck in the passageway. Jeff wanted to race over; to see if his youngest son was all right, that he hadn't been hurt in the random gravity fluctuations. But he couldn't move his feet from the deck; it was as if they were clued there by the heavy gravity.
At that moment the dim overhead lighting flickered, went out then abruptly came back on at full power momentarily dazzling everyone as their eyes had become accustomed to the gloom. Even has he blinked rapidly to clear the multicoloured sparkles from his eyes, Jeff sighed in relief as he felt the gravity return to Earth normal gravity not what had to be three or four gee's that it had to have been. As his vision cleared he looked straight at the passageway to see Alan getting back to his feet, his youngest son looked understandably battered and the light blond hair that Alan normally kept neatly brushed these days was ruffled and in a mess. Aside from that though Alan looked to be perfectly okay.
"You know Dad these power fluctuations are really starting to get on my nerves," Alan said approaching where his father and Brains were standing. "Over the last hour I've been alternatively floating about, pinned to the floor, or standing normally about a dozen times. Though the fluctuations are getting worse."
"H...h...how so Alan," Brains asked.
"There getting more frequent Brains," Alan replied. "Plus the times when the power is way down or the gravity plating goes up the creek are getting longer. That last one lasted nearly five minutes. It started just after the proximity sensors detected your approach. I was coming back here to the control room to call you with an update when it started." Jeff frowned slightly in concern, the fact that the power outages were lasting longer when they occurred was very worrying indeed, but why hadn't Alan been in the control room already?
"What were you doing away from the control room Alan," he asked.
"I was using the portable diagnostic unit from equipment locker four Dad," Alan replied. "I've been manually checking the power distribution nodes on this level."
"G...g...good saves me the t...t...trouble," Brains stammered out. "D...d...did you find a...a...anything."
"No," Alan replied. "All the power distribution nodes for the individual sections of this level are perfectly fine."
"T...t...that means the p...p...problem must be with e...e...either the main power distribution n...n...node for this deck," Brains answered. "The m...m...main power conduit or the p...p...power regulators."
"Even so that is still going to give us a lot of work to do," Jeff said. "Even those all three things we need to check can be accessed through the stations core shaft its going to take awhile to do all the checks."
"Not necessarily Dad," Alan replied. "Brains how many diagnostic units did you bring up with you."
"Two," Brains answered smiling guessing what Alan was going to say. Alan grinned, but before he could speak Jeff got it as well and grinned.
"Okay Brains lets get out those diagnostic units," Jeff said. "Then we'll all have one. Brains you descend to the bottom of the stations core shaft and check the power regulators. I'll check the main power conduit. Alan you check the main power node for this deck."
"Y...y...yes Mr Tracy."
"Then let's get started."
Twenty Minutes Later
Brains sighed in relief and wiped some sweat from his forehead as he reached the power room at the bottom of the stations core shaft. The descent down the ladder through the core to here had been exhausting, hot work. Here in the stations core it was always warm, for through here ran so many of the stations cable ducts, pipes, there were many vital pieces of equipment, as well as at the base the fusion reactor, generators and power regulators. All of them produced heat, so the core shaft and power room were always the hottest parts of Thunderbird Five.
Moving carefully through the cramped and dark power room Brains made his way first over to the main control board for the station's fusion core. From there he would be able to check back up monitor systems that he had installed to monitor the flow of power out of the reactor, independent of the stations main computer. Before he checked the power flow regulators he wanted to double check that there was nothing wrong with the reactors power output. It wouldn't be the first time something had gone wrong with the outflow after all, though most times the computer detected and alerted any problem with the reactor before it caused a major problem.
Carefully he checked all the readings. Magnetic containment fields normal, core temperature within acceptable parameters, all deuterium injectors and conduits showing equal pressure, plasma pressure normal, power output normal. No problems here, Brains thought not that he had expected there would be. He had after all designed the fusion cores that powered almost all the Thunderbirds, he knew what could and could not go wrong with them. Power regulators next, he thought heading for the access panel to the first of the four massive regulators that controlled the flow of power from the reactor to the whole station.
Jeff sighed as he checked the readings on the LCD screen of the diagnostic scanner unit. The readings were the same as they had been at the last inspection hatch along the length of the duct through which the main power lines, each one as thick as his forearm, ran. Energy was flowing evenly along the power conduits; there was no signs of any damage, or anything that could be causing an intermittent short circuit.
"Nothing here," he said to himself as he extracted the diagnostic cable from its docking slot and wrapped it back around the scanner unit. He closed the panel then switched on his wristcom to audio only transmission.
"Alan any luck with the cable node," Jeff asked into the radio.
"Negative, Dad," Alan replied. "All the readings for the node are fine. Every circuit is intact; there is nothing wrong with it that I can see. It's got to be the power regulators. There is nothing else I can think of that could be causing the problem."
"Possibly," Jeff answered. "I have two more inspection hatches yet to get to. Seal up the cover to the power node again Alan then come and give me a hand."
Brains grunted as he finally managed to undo the securing bolts on the inspection hatch cover for power regulator number one. The regulator that was chiefly responsible for the control of power to the main deck, astrodome and the communications array at the top of the station. Awkward in the cramped confines of the power room he lifted off the cover.
Immediately a puff of smoke came out of the normally sealed inspection chamber. The stink of ozone and melted circuits assaulted him and reflexively Brains wrinkled his nose. Looks like I've found the problem, he thought playing his light over the regulator's interior.
It was immediately obvious what the problem was. The interior of each power regulator was a complex mix or wires, circuits and crystal state computer chips, amongst all of this were four sets of three surge protectors. Two of the sets of three were completely gone, the circuits and wires singed and burned, blackened into uselessness. Two more surge protectors in the third set were blackened and blown as well, there also appeared to be damage to the nearest bank of crystal computer chips, they weren't blown completely but two of the chips had been singed. What a mess! No wonder the computer didn't detect the fault, Brains thought looking at the damaged chips, they've been feeding it misleading information. That's been what's causing the problem. The chips must have been damaged and been telling the computer that there is an imbalance in power output in this regulator. As designed the computers compensated and the sudden surge of additional power has blown the surge protectors, which instead of alerting the computer to the problem causes the system to reset to normal.
Brains sighed and switched on his wristcom to audio only. He just hoped that Alan and Mr Tracy would be able to hear him over the constant background pulsing humming of the fusion core which was more pronounced here than anywhere else.
"A...A...Alan, Mr Tracy?" he said.
"Go ahead Brains," Jeff responded instantly.
"Go ahead Brains," Alan echoed.
"I've f...f...found the fault," Brains informed them. "Its with p...p...power regulator number o...o...one."
"Can you fix it Brains," Jeff asked.
"N...n...no," Brains replied. "We d...d...don't have the right p...p...parts and the r...r...regulator is to badly d...d...damaged to be repaired."
"That bad huh?" Alan asked.
"Yes. W...w...we will have to r...r...replaced the r...r...regulator," Brains answered. "W...w...we will have to m...m...make a new one. In the m...m...meantime we can s...s...shut this regulator d...d...down and reroute the power flows. Thunderbird Five can f...f...function p...p...perfectly well on three r...r...regulators."
"Alright Brains we'll do that," Jeff replied. "Me and Alan will head up to the control room and start what needs to be done with the computer. While we do that you shut down and isolate that regulator from the power grid."
Three Hours Later
Brains sighed in relief as he sunk down into one of the seats in Thunderbird Three's cockpit. He was glad that was over. Power regulator number one had been disconnected from Thunderbird Five's power grid and the other three reconfigured to handle the additional loading caused by the absence of number one. He knew they would be easily able to handle the additional loading, multiple redundancy had been incorporated into the systems of all the Thunderbirds right from the word go.
"Ready to go Brains," Jeff asked from where he was sitting at the pilots station.
"Yes Mr Tracy," Brains replied. "I'm g...g...glad that we f...f...found and rectified the fault as m...m...much as we c...c...can for now."
"As am I," Jeff answered. "What caused that malfunction with the regulator Brains?"
"F...f...faulty crystal c...c...computer chips Mr Tracy," Brains replied. "I c...c...checked the other chips in the o...o...other r...r...regulators. T...t...they are all fine, t...t...the problem shouldn't occur a...a...again."
"I see. Good. I'll order the replacement parts as soon as we get back home," Jeff replied. "But first we need to get home." As he spoke he manipulated the radio controls. "Thunderbird Three to Thunderbird Five. Ready to disengage from the station."
"F-A-B, Dad," Alan responded as his image appeared on video monitor. "Have a safe trip home."
"Thanks Alan. Are you sure you're going to be alright up here now?"
"Yeah I'll be fine Dad now that this particular gremlin has been dealt with," Alan replied. "I'll see you in a month."
"See you in a month Alan." Alan smiled then broke the connection from his end.
After a moment a series of dull thuds echoed through Thunderbird Three as the docking clamps holding the mighty red rocket to Thunderbird Five disengaged. Jeff smiled and fired the manoeuvring jets, gently easing Thunderbird Three away from the stations docking port. As soon as they were clear of the station, he engaged the main engines and began the journey back to Earth.
Alan watched the monitors as Thunderbird Three disengaged from the station and began its journey home. As he had said to his father he was glad that the gremlin that had been plaguing the station had been dealt with, he could now get back to work. He watched until Thunderbird Three was out of the pick up range of the cameras on the stations outer ring then turned his attention to the other displays, everything was as it should be. Good, he thought standing up and heading away from main console. He was almost out of the control room when the radio crackled to life.
"Calling International Rescue, calling International Rescue," a desperate sounding voice said over the radio. Alan sighed and raced back to the console. Duty calls, he thought pressing the button to answer the incoming hail.
"This is International Rescue," he said. "We hear you. How can we be of assistance?"
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