This story first appeared in Issue 6 of the SIG! Fanzine, Winter 1982, published Brendan J Sheehan and David W Nightingale, in UK. Text and pictures taken from the fanzine. Story by Janet Ellicott and drawings by Steve Kyte.
This story is posted without the author's or the artist's permission - with due acknowledgment - hoping to attract their attention. If you wish it to be removed, please contact the webmaster without any delay.
Total relaxation was a rare luxury for a Tracy. Scott found he was actually enjoying lazing on the beach by day and going to the casinos at night. Of course, there was the drawback that Lady Penelope seemed to know everyone and insisted on introducing him to a never-ending stream of Duchesses, Countesses, Ladies and even a couple of Princesses. The younger ones found him a challenge, the unmarried heir to a family fortune, but the older ones only seemed to be interested in marrying him off, preferably to their daughters or nieces. To him, they were the challenge. His years with International Rescue had taught him how to handle people, and these old ladies succumbed to his charm and air of authority, just as the sometimes difficult officials did.
He was even making a little money in the casinos. Of course, he wasn‘t betting anything like the amounts Lady Penelope was: Scott had inherited a lot of his father's business sense and never wasted money. Nevertheless he was having a great deal of luck. It worried him. A good run of luck usually meant a bad one was on the way, and it had been nearly three months since anyone had called on the services of International Rescue.
On the fourth night in Monte Carlo it was well after 4am when they went back to the Rolls Royce. It was only a short drive to the hotel, but none of them made it, at least not that night for, as they reached the pink Rolls Royce, his wrist communicator beeped. Scott answered it before he'd even closed the door, not even noticing when Parker closed it for him. "Go ahead,” he said softly, trying desperately to still the churning of his stomach. He had made his regular check-in only two hours earlier and the next wasn't due for another two. There was no reason for anyone to call him.
"John, Scott. I‘m sorry to interrupt your leave, but something's wrong."
"What do you mean ‘wrong’?"
"I can't contact the base. There is a storm in the Pacific. It could be affecting communications but I don't think so. I usually get something, even if I can't make any sense of it. Besides, I'm picking up TV broadcasts in the area. They'd be out if it was the storm."
Scott longed for the speed and comfort of Thunderbird 1. He did a rapid calculation. "John, I can't be there for at least 6 hours."
"I know, but I can't get there at all."
"Wait a minute. You should have been relieved yesterday. Why weren't you?"
"Alan has 'flu. He's not really ill. In fact, he insisted on coming up but Father wouldn't spare Virgil to bring him, and he's not well enough to pilot Thunderbird 3 on his own."
"When did you last speak to Base?"
"Just over three hours ago, on the regular check-in."
"Was everything all right then?"
"More or less. Father said TinTin didn’t feel well and Gordon had gone down with 'flu too. That‘s why he couldn't spare Virgil. Can you get out and check?"
"Yes, sure John."
He turned to Penelope. "How quickly can you get me to the airport?"
"We're halfway there now," Parker assured him. "‘Er Ladyship keeps a 'plane at a little airfield about 10 miles from the airport proper."
"How fast is it?"
"Since Brains modified it," Penelope answered, "a lot faster than any other 'plane you could get."
"Thanks," Scott sighed.
"You think the Base has been taken over?" Penelope asked.
"I don't know. I just know I can't take chances. OK, John. I'm on my way to the airfield. Keep trying to contact the Base, and call me ever ten minutes."
"Hold a minute, Scott."
There was no answer for some minutes. When John came back, he sounded more worried than before. "Scott, we have a problem."
"Someone call us?"
"Where?" Scott asked, hoping his voice was as cool as he'd tried to make it.
"New Zealand. There was an accident in a mine. They can get to most of the trapped men, but they say there‘s no way they can reach the deepest party before their air runs out. Sounds like a job for the Mole."
"How long, John, have we got?"
Scott fought to keep his voice calm. If he panicked then he knew John would - and he couldn't afford to lose his communications.
"Five hours before the air runs out. What shall I tell them?" He sounded close to panic. International Rescue had never refused to help anyone before. Yet now they had no choice. He was ready to go back and say they couldn't help, but he wanted Scott to confirm that first to share the burden with him.
"Tell them we'll be there," Scott decided.
“How? There's now way you can get to the Base and...."
"I don't know, John. I just know I have to do it somehow."
Even flying at a recklessly high speed, Scott knew he couldn’t make it. He wouldn't even be at the Base in 5 hours, let alone at the mine, and it would take a good few minutes to get Thunderbird 2 airborne. He knew, to the second almost, how long she would take to get to the mine, and it was too long. There had to be another solution.
They had been in the air nearly an hour when John called him. Even before he'd said more than the call sign, Scott knew he'd made contact with the Base. He wouldn't have sounded so cheerful otherwise.
"What happened?" Scott demanded.
"Later, Scott. What's your exact position?"
Scott told him.
"Right, Virgil will rendezvous with you. Keep this channel open. OK?"
“OK," Scott confirmed. “What's he flying?"
"What do you think?"
“If he scratches my paintwork....!"
"He's much more worried about his own."
"Why?" Scott sounded more surprised at the comment. "Gordon's flown her before."
"Gordon is down with 'flu."
"As well as Alan?"
"And Brains. Father is flying Thunderbird 2!"
"But Father's never... ..."
"What choice do we have?"
"OK, I don't like it, but you're right. We don't have a choice. What did happen at the Base?"
"An experiment misfired. Brains collapsed with a sudden attack of 'flu, leaving machinery running. Apparently he knew it would block radio transmissions if left on too long, but he had intended to turn it off before that happened. He passed out and couldn't."
"So how did you contact them?"
"I didn't. Virgil realised I'd be worried and took Thunderbird 1 outside the range of the damper field."
"Well, at least that's settled. Someone ought to monitor what Brains is doing in that lab, you know."
"Father thought he was, Scott. It‘s just that Brains isn't exactly very good at describing what he‘s doing in words the rest of us can understand."
"Yes, I know what you mean. What's the news of the disaster?”
"Not good. The other rescue teams have discovered considerable flooding."
"Water won't affect the Mole."
"Yes, but the water's causing more subsidence. By the time the Mole gets there, the trapped men could be anywhere. Hold on. There's another report coming in..... "
Virgil lost almost an hour collecting Scott. By the time he got to the mine, Thunderbird 2 was only 10 minutes behind him. Feeling very strange to be in the first ship, he helped Scott unload the mobile control desk and sat back to wait. He knew Scott was keeping his anxiety under control, even though he was wanting to be doing something right away. For the first time, Virgil fully realised that their father had made the right decisions when assigning each of his sons to a craft.
Jeff Tracy felt no less strange than his second son. In the two years that International Rescue had been operational, he had only missed one rescue, but he had never actually been one, though he had been amongst the rescued. Always, he had monitored the team from the Base. Now he had a chance to see the team in action he wasn't sure that he wanted to. Scott and Virgil worked so well together that they rarely wasted time with unnecessary words. They would have to keep stopping, to explain to him what needed doing. He was bound to slow them down. Yet what choice had he had? Someone had to fly Thunderbird 2 to the rescue site, and Virgil had already been in Thunderbird 1. They had done the only logical thing.
Thunderbird 2 made a flawless landing, much to Virgil's relief. He was not looking forward to his father's arrival in any case. There had been sparks the first time John went on a mission. This time, there would be flames.
By the time the Pod door opened, Virgil was ready to go inside. At least 10 minutes start had given him time to study a map of the mine. There was no need for Scott to give him directions. Scott seemed to think so too. He went into the Pod first, prepared for an argument, but his mood tempered by the unexpected presence of TinTin, sufficiently recovered to be restored to active duty.
It was a complete surprise to both of them when Jeff said, "All right boys, you're in charge. What do you want me to do?"
"Well," Scott said - and found he could go no further.
"We daren't leave the Mole unattended," Virgil explained. "The ground is constantly on the move and she's heavy. One of us will have to hold her steady while the other goes out to the trapped men."
"That makes sense. Do you want TinTin to go? She's lighter than you."
"No, Scott said quickly. “Strength is more important than weight here. There'll probably be unconscious men to carry."
"That will take two of you so I can control the Mole while you go outside," Tintin objected. She turned her most winning smile on Jeff, "And you can look after Mobile Control."
"I get the feeling," Scott said, as he strapped himself in, "that you manoeuvred that, TinTin."
"Of course I did." She had to shout as Virgil started the engines. "Your father is bad enough on Tracy Island. At least now he can worry about someone else."
"Pity," Virgil said, "that Mine Superintendent looked promising. She'll probable refuse to speak to me again!"
Scott laughed and then consulted the map. "Straight down to 1000 feet, then turn 70 degrees to the West."
"Right." Virgil was suddenly all business. “Do you think we‘ll find them, Scott?"
"I don't know. I've never been less certain of a rescue, that's for sure."
The upper mine workings were almost completely flooded and, in places, the floor was already crumbling. Virgil decided to go through the firmest part of the floor, to lessen the chances of the whole level collapsing. He didn't have much success.
"It's the vibration," TinTin explained. “We're just collapsing the floor faster. Let us hope the next level is more secure."
"Not," Scott warned, "according to the other rescue parties. Still, we do have four more levels to go."
The next level was slightly firmer, but water was pouring down. It was only a matter of time before that was also flooded. Scott unfastened his seat belt, telling TinTin to do the same. If time was running short, they couldn't afford to waste any. The final level was already several inches deep with water, and more was seeping through every second. As Virgil brought the Mole to a standstill, the roof fell in behind them.
"We'll have to move fast," Scott said. “Any sign of them on the scanners?"
"Not yet, Scott."
"Well change places with TinTin anyway. We‘ll have to move as soon as we find them." He watched the scanners as they changed over. "We're picking up something, but it's below us."
Virgil reached for the map. "There aren't any workings further down."
"Then the floor most have caved in."
"lf there aren't any lower workings..." TinTin began.
"Never mind," Scott told her. "Just take her down."
"Perhaps there are some older workings," Virgil suggested. "Mining‘s been around a long time."
"Not this deep, Virg." Scott took a nylon rope from its storage locker. "We might need this,"
Virgil fastened one end to his belt. "We don't know what it's going to be like out there, Scott. I think we ought to be fastened to the Mole, rather than each other."
"OK." Scott took out a second rope and oxygen masks. Virgil donned his mask without comment. Scott looked over TinTin's shoulder at the scanner. "There's some kind of natural cavern here - and the miners! All right TinTin, stop here."
They were outside before the Mole had fully stopped. Twelve miners were sitting on the cavern floor, another three lying unconscious beside them.
“We can't take them all," Virgil said.
"I know." Scott turned to the miners. "Who's in charge here?"
"The foreman's out cold," one of the men said. "I'm his deputy. That vehicle of yours looks pretty small."
"We'll make two trips," Scott assured him, "but we must be quick. Those of you who can walk help us get the wounded men inside. There’s an awful lot of water up there."
By the time the Mole surfaced, Jeff had imagined fifty different disasters befalling his team. He wondered how Scott could cope with this, rescue after rescue. Then he knew how, Even if his father hadn't been there, Scott would have gone in the Mole with Virgil. It was the chance of action that pulled him through the long hours of waiting. Rescue workers were standing by to take off the injured men. When TinTin appeared Jeff knew the situation was desperate. She looked to have been arguing with Virgil.
"I didn't see Scott," Jeff said as they watched the Mole go under again.
"He stayed down there, Mr Tracy, so we could bring one more man up."
Jeff realised he should have known. He hadn‘t been told because they knew he would forbid it. He turned back to the control desk. "Mole from Mobile Control. How does it look, son?"
"Worse, Father. the third level is completely flooded now, and the floor‘s likely to go any second. I‘m coming down to the fourth level now. It's not as bad, but..." There was an almighty crash behind him. “The roof just came down, and I'm making it worse."
"You can't help that, son."
"I know, I just hope the rest of them can get aboard in a matter of seconds. That's all the time they have."
“Virgil ?" TinTin had been studying the map. "How much longer would it be if we detoured and came up under the cavern?"
"I don't know, TinTin. It would cut the vibration down, but I don't know what the rock is like. I might lose 15 minutes."
"But it will take you five to go the rest of the way."
"No, TinTin, It isn't worth the risk. I'm going through the last level now." He fell silent.
"Virgil," Jeff called softly then, more loudly, "Virgil, what‘s wrong !?"
"It's completely flooded. The floor was crumbling before with the water..." He didn't finish: he didn't have to.
Scott had timed the Mole's first descent. The ascent should have been easier, and the second descent difficult. At a rough guess, any time in the next ten minutes. He got the men to their feet, and spoke into his wrist communicator. "Virgil, where are you?"
"The last level, Scott. You're not very clear."
"There's something in the rock that affects the radio, a kind of shielding. See you in a minute." As he spoke, one of the men gave a shout as the point of the Mole broke the roof's surface.
Speed was essential now. The men realised that. Even so, only half of them were aboard when the roof collapsed. The others were close; it was merely a matter of getting them inside. For Virgil it was a nightmare. The Mole was taking a lot of knocks. It would be easiest to go straight down, but he couldn't. He had to hold the Mole still, knowing that time was running out, and that his brother would be the last man aboard.
It seemed an eternity before someone said, “All right, the door's closed," and he took the Mole down.
Only when the bombardment ceased did he realise a miner had spoken. "Scott?" he asked, not daring to take his eyes off the scanners.
"He's out cold, he got hit. He‘ll be all right, though."
That was confirmed by the Mine Doctor. Scott was bruised and suffered concussion, but he would recover, TinTin flew him back to base, Virgil deciding there was no point in both of them worrying about their paintwork!
The following day, Scott flew back to Monte Carlo where his absence had already been commented on and scheduled airlines would be too slow. Thunderbird 1 with Gordon as pilot was the only answer. Before he left, Jeff called the team together.
"I was proud of you before. Now I've seen you in action, I‘m even prouder. Well done, boys."