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A CARIBBEAN CATASTROPHE

by MCJ
RATED FRPT


Thoughts from a day in the life of International Rescue.

This story won FIRST PLACE in response to the 2006 Tracy Island Writers Forum Fic Swap Challenge, voted favorite of all eighteen stories entered.

Challenge Request from EJB: "I would like to see a fic based on a rescue involving a cruise liner that has caught fire in the Caribbean Sea; Jeff is in New York at the time leaving the boys behind to deal with the situation."


Jeff Tracy Head of International Rescue

Little did I know what was in store for International Rescue the day I received a call that required me to fly to New York immediately to attend to a legal matter involving the Tracy Corporation. I wasn't too happy when the call ended. I wasn't in the mood for the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and it went without saying I had no desire to go. However, I guessed I didn't have much choice if I was needed in person by my Attorney. Besides, it was pretty quiet on the rescue scene at the moment and the boys pointed out I hadn't been to the New York Office for months. So after a short deliberation, I decided the world of big business probably needed to see Jefferson Tracy again, even if it was only to prove he was still alive and hadn't somehow managed to fall off the face of the earth. Kyrano went upstairs to pack my things while I sat down and had a good, long talk to the boys. They would need to run International Rescue in my absence.

James McGregor - Captain of the "Sea Princess"

I've been the Captain of the Sea Princess for nearly five years now and I know every square mile of the Caribbean Sea like the back of my hand... Venezuela, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, Antigua, and all the numerous islands in between... there's nothing I'm not familiar with. The Sea Princess is an awe-inspiring vessel; one thousand feet long with fourteen decks. Cruises at a steady twenty one knots. Weighs in at one hundred and ten thousand tonnes. We had thirty five hundred on board that day, including eleven hundred staff.

Jeff Tracy

From the moment I checked into my Hotel suite in Manhattan I had an uneasy feeling something was going to happen. I got the same feeling last year when I was in Australia with Penny and we nearly lost that oil rig. The boys, particularly Scott, sure learnt a lot from that experience, most importantly, when and when not to launch International Rescue. I knew I had to put the near miss with the oil rig out of my mind or I'd worry myself to death, so I climbed into the Jacuzzi with a drink and tried to lean back in the warm water and relax. When that didn't work, I climbed back out of the Jacuzzi, threw on a robe, and sat down at the table to concentrate on the legal matter. Scott knew what to do if there was an emergency call. Things at the base would be fine. But ... My eyes kept roving to my wrist communicator. I'd promised him faithfully I wouldn't ... but maybe it was in order to make just one more call...

Scott Tracy - Field Commander of International Rescue

It didn't come as any great surprise when the call came in from Dad. At least he'd stretched it out to fourteen hours this time, a record for him believe me. Naturally, he made idle small talk as he always does when he's worried, but in the end he had to come clean. How were things at home? Any trouble he needed to know about? I informed him the only trouble we were having at the moment was keeping Gordon away from Grandma's apple pie and the fact we had this Father who couldn't stop himself from calling. After Dad laughed a little too long and a little too hard I decided to make my point. I told him point blank he didn't need to check up on us. I could handle things just fine. Then I made him give his solemn word he wouldn't try and call me again.

Jeff Tracy

I was really quite stunned when Scott came out with it as blatantly as that. I knew right then and there I had to take a step back. Of course he could handle things, I told him. They all could. After a few uncomfortable moments I promised, and I did mean it this time. That I would stop being Jeff Tracy, head of International Rescue and become Jeff Tracy, Dad, head of the billion dollar Tracy Corporation. Scott said he'd hold me to that and believe it only when he didn't hear from me. Duly reprimanded, but nevertheless relieved things were OK on the Island, we said our goodbyes and I went to unpack my suitcase. I think I'd almost forgotten who Jeff Tracy, Head of the Tracy Corporation was. Needless to say, the diamond studded cuff links, black leather shoes and the impeccable Brioni business suit soon gave me a very stern reminder.

James McGregor

I still don't know how the fire started. The ship has never lacked thorough maintenance. I've stated that fact to the Authorities. All I do know is we were into the fourth day at sea and had just left Cozumel on our way to Puerto Limon. This was usually the trouble free leg of the itinerary; straight sailing; no stops. I was socialising with the passengers when they summoned me to the bridge. I should have known something was wrong the moment I received the message.

John Tracy Astronaut - Thunderbird Five

The quick thinking of Captain McGregor is the main reason those people are all still alive today. When I picked up the distress call, he'd only been on the bridge several minutes. He told me the fire was substantial but still confined to the upper deck. All the passengers were being temporarily evacuated to the lower levels of the ship. He had assigned a fair proportion of the crew to supervise the evacuation. The rest of the crew were trying to contain the fire.

Scott Tracy

There was absolutely no doubt in my mind this time that International Rescue was required. A fire on loaded passenger ship doesn't sit too well in anyone's mind, least of all my own. It was a big stretch of open sea between Cozumel and Puerto Limon and the Sea Princess was hell smack bang in the middle of it. My brothers were with me in the lounge when John reported in so we were able to get things underway is less than fifteen minutes.

Alan Tracy Astronaut Assisting in Thunderbird Two

I wasn't very pleased when Scott instructed me to go with Virgil and Gordon and assist in Thunderbird Two. Normally Scott's the anchor man at the base when Dad's away from the island and I'm the one who's required to fly Thunderbird One into the danger zone.

Scott Tracy

I could tell Alan wasn't too impressed I'd chosen to run this one from the air. What he didn't realise was I did a fair bit of flying over the Caribbean Sea when I was on manoeuvres with the Air Force and I saw a lot of crippled cruise ships. Those babies carry a lot of people and if they sink out there in the middle of nowhere there's not much opportunity to save life. I told the kid he needed to trust me on this one. If International Rescue was going to save the Sea Princess and keep everyone calm while we were in the process, all of us were required out there and that included me. Much as he wanted the buzz of flying Thunderbird One, I couldn't let him take her this time

Virgil Tracy Pilot Thunderbird Two

I knew Scott would take the Field Command the moment John informed us of the number of passengers. If anyone could control three and a half thousand panicking human beings and still co-ordinate fire-fighting operations it was Scott. He was airborne before we'd hit Thunderbird Two. I was in the air myself not that far behind him. We didn't have much time.

Gordon Tracy Aquanaut Thunderbird Four

Scott had asked for Pod Four as a precaution in case any of the passengers were stupid enough to jump. Pod Four also carried an adequate amount of fire-fighting equipment. During the flight to the Caribbean, Virgil and Scott also discussed the use of the additional fire fighting chemicals Brains had recently incorporated into the hull of Thunderbird Two. Alan and I looked at each other as they spoke. It was still unclear whether Scott required both of us to suit up to fight the fire on Sea Princess or if I had to put on my aquanaut gear to pull people out of the water with the help of Thunderbird Four. Virgil instructed Alan to suit up for the fire and told me I needed to be ready to do either.

James McGregor

I was so relieved to see International Rescue and hear the calm, controlled voice of their Field Commander. We'd cut the motors as soon as the fire was detected and all we could see was miles of open sea around us and masses of thick black smoke above us. The Passengers were becoming very agitated and a few of them had started demanding access to the life boats. Of course we were carrying enough life boats for everyone but I was very aware we were also carrying maximum passenger capacity. I tried to maintain order and explained if any of the boats were launched prematurely, there would be real problems if even one of them wasn't one hundred per cent filled.

Jeff Tracy

I heard about the fire in the Caribbean Sea on the newscast only a few minutes before the Corporation meeting began. The moment I heard the news, I looked in the direction of my brief case and debated whether or not to contact Scott on my wrist communicator. I hesitated. I knew I'd promised Scott I wouldn't call. I didn't hesitate for long. A fire on a cruise liner carrying thirty five hundred people was extremely serious and I felt Scott would probably welcome my advice on this one. I didn't even get the chance to rise from my position at the conference table. Just as I decided I needed to make the call, I was handed a copy of the legal documents by my Senior Attorney and asked to peruse the content. I reached for a glass of water, cleared my throat and had no option but to open up the documents. I couldn't afford to think about what was going on in the Caribbean. I was here to attend to a legal matter, not to tell my sons how to run International Rescue.

John Tracy

Rescue operations which don't involve ground control are always more difficult to monitor. By the time Thunderbird Two reached the Sea Princess I was involved in a four way conversation. Scott was ice-cool on every frequency. He spoke to Captain McGregor. He gave his instructions to Virgil on where to drop the Pod. He said he wanted Gordon in Thunderbird Four. The top deck was now burning freely and despite his assurances to the Sea Princess, he'd spotted a few of the passengers preparing themselves to jump.

Scott Tracy

Some people can be absolute idiots in the face of an emergency. When the first of them went over the side I could hardly believe it. Just where did they think help was going to come from in the middle of the Caribbean Sea? That pod had hardly hit the water when I saw one of them go under. I think I nearly deafened Gordon with the command to get down there and pull that guy back up.

Gordon Tracy

I'm used to taking all kinds of orders from Scott in the field but I don't think I've ever received an order quite as forceful as that. Even though Thunderbird Four wasn't designed for major civilian retrieval, I got the distinct impression Scott felt an adaptive re-use today was very much in order.

John Tracy

I had a five way hook-up now; myself, the three Thunderbirds and the Captain of the Sea Princess. Captain McGregor was starting to sound strained. The flames were getting higher and from where he was, he didn't like the look of the deck. He had real concerns about the passengers still being assembled on the lower four decks. Scott maintained iron control and made the required judgement. The passengers were to stay where they were for the time being, he commanded Captain McGregor, and whatever he did, he had to keep them calm. I could hear the tension in Scott's voice as he hovered high above Sea Princess in Thunderbird One and directed Thunderbird Two to commence the fire fighting from the air.

Alan Tracy

I thought Scott would have wanted me to go down there with the manual equipment but one look at the flames on the upper deck of the Sea Princess told me I wasn't going to be going anywhere. I listened to Scott as he gave Virgil the instructions. The only chance we had to contain the fire to the upper deck was to use the built in equipment in the hull of Thunderbird Two. Virgil needed to fly over Sea Princess at speed and I would have to release the chemical onto the fire at exactly the appropriate moment. But it wasn't going to be that easy. Scott stressed to both of us we couldn't afford to miss. Virgil nodded his head and glanced at me. He knew Thunderbird Two wasn't carrying enough of the specialised dousing chemical to make a second attempt.

Virgil Tracy

I tried to keep the kid calm as I prepared to make the sweep. This was no different to those stupid shooting games he used to play with Gordon right? Nothing to it. Hold her straight. Stay cool. Watch the target.

Scott Tracy

When I heard Virgil using that kind of psychology on Alan I wanted to point out to him that the kid had never won any of those stupid shooting games he played. I also wanted to point out that if somehow Alan missed, we'd be facing a fire burning out of control, the evacuation of thirty five hundred people from the lower decks of the Sea Princess and only three Thunderbird craft to do it with.

James McGregor

All the passengers and crew were still on the four lower levels. You could hardly see anything now for the smoke. I'd lost all communication with International Rescue. All I could do was try to reassure the passengers. I promised them we'd break out the life boats if the fire wasn't contained in the next ten minutes. I begged people not to be stupid and jump. If they did, there were only so many people that poor guy down there in the water was going to be able to save.

Gordon Tracy

All I could see above me was the massive hull of the Sea Princess. I'd plucked eight passengers out of the water so far and all of them had sustained injuries. The injuries weren't bad but my main concern was a certain type of marine life which was starting to congregate around the area.

Alan Tracy

I was ready as I was ever going to be I supposed but I said to Virgil I wished there wasn't so much smoke. Virgil agreed. He had to fly over Sea Princess at maximum speed if Brain's new chemical was going to work and he didn't even know where the cruise ship started and ended. My stomach started to churn as he swung Thunderbird Two away from the Sea Princess and headed further out over the Caribbean Sea. When he turned ready to make his approach he looked directly at me and reminded me I couldn't miss. Then he asked if I was feeling OK. I lied and said I was.

John Tracy

You can't help but feel a kind of hopelessness when a rescue gets to this type of situation. The Coast Guard were still four hours away so if Alan missed, there wasn't going to be much left for Scott to do other than to give Captain McGregor the order to evacuate the ship. Captain McGregor's comments that Sea Princess was sailing at capacity made me pretty nervous. Evacuation and panic share a common denominator in my experience...disaster.

Virgil Tracy

The first time I took Thunderbird Two in, Alan didn't release the chemical. He said he couldn't see clearly enough. As I swung back out over the sea Scott re-iterated in no uncertain terms we were fast running out of time. The upper deck was about to collapse. This time we had to do it. I held my breath as we headed in towards Sea Princess for the final time. I didn't think Scott needed to hear I was only using radar to guide me where I needed to go.

Scott Tracy

It was one smack bang perfect hit by Alan and I've never felt so relieved to see a fire go out in my whole entire life. That chemical Brains devised is brilliant. One thousand feet of fire went out like a single flame on a matchstick. Thank God is all I'll say. I'd estimate we extinguished that blaze with less than three minutes to spare.

Virgil Tracy

When the smoke started to clear around the Sea Princess I couldn't help but grin at the sweat on my kid brother's face. Like me, he was too relieved to speak and we were both almost ten shades of grey. Thank goodness Scott had gone with his gut instincts and taken the role of Field Command. I don't think we couldn't have pulled it off without him. Like he said to Alan, all of us were needed out there today and by all of us I'm not forgetting John.

John Tracy

Even though I was nowhere near the Danger Zone, Thunderbird Five played an integral role in the outcome of this rescue operation. Once Scott confirmed the fire on the Sea Princess was out, I radioed the Coast Guard from Thunderbird Five and informed them of the situation. I confirmed there were several injured passengers and they would need to be transported to port in Puerto Limon for medical attention. By the time the Coast Guard finally arrived and had taken control of the Sea Princess, the guys had already transferred the injured to Puerto Limon and were on their way back to the base. I sure wished I were joining them. A party when Dad's not around usually turns out to be one heck of a party.

Scott Tracy

You know what? I felt pretty lousy the first time Dad left me in charge of International Rescue and I balled it all up. I even recall telling him I was the one needing a vacation when he returned. Well not this time. We did great work out there today ... all of us. And the best part is ... we did it all without a single bit of help from Dad.

James McGregor

I think I speak for everyone who was on board Sea Princess when I say we were very lucky out there today... very, very lucky. Thirty five hundred people could have died as the result of that fire and that includes me. I don't think I'll ever be able to say enough about those guys in International Rescue and how professionally they conducted their operation. Whoever they are and wherever they come from they are a credit to themselves and to humanity.

Jeff Tracy

Well this wasn't the first time my boys have been put in the hot seat when I'm not there to give them guidance, is it? I never doubted they were capable even if I can't help but worry about what might have happened if that cruise ship had gone and exploded at the height of the fire. Mind you, frightening as the thought may be, I'm not complaining about the way they handled themselves out there in my absence. I'm sure all five of them are now waiting with bated breath for Dad to call home and have something to say about the interview he just saw on the telecast with Captain James McGregor. I'll let you in on a secret. This time Dad doesn't intend to call.

A Final Conversation

"Dad!"

"Scott!"

"Dad I've been trying to reach you for hours!"

"Oh? I'm sorry son. I'm afraid I've had my wrist communicator off. What's up? Is there something wrong at home?"

"Err ...no Dad."

"Well I'm pleased to hear that."

"Yes Sir."

"So then; why the call to New York at ten thirty five in the evening?"

"Aren't you going to tell me Dad?"

"No. Why would I do that?"

"Oh no particular reason Dad ... so errr...how's New York?"

"Well, at the moment I've got a cognac in one hand, a cigar in the other and I'm looking out of my hotel window overlooking Manhattan. I think it's fair to say that New York is pretty damn fine thank you."

"That's ... err ...good Dad "

"Anything else you need to know son?"

"Umm ... no Dad. Guess I'll see you in a couple of days then."

"I'll look forward to it."

"Yeah. Night Dad."

"Good night son. Oh ... and by the way ..."

"Yes Sir?"

"You and your brothers did a great job out there today. I nearly forgot to mention it."

 
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