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
– Head of International Rescue
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.
McGregor - Captain of the "Sea Princess"
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.
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
Tracy - Field Commander of International Rescue
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.
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.
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.
– Astronaut - Thunderbird Five
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.
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
– Astronaut – Assisting in Thunderbird Two
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
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
Tracy – Pilot – Thunderbird Two
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.
Tracy – Aquanaut – Thunderbird Four
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
been trying to reach you for hours!"
sorry son. I'm afraid I've had my wrist communicator off.
What's up? Is there something wrong at home?"
pleased to hear that."
why the call to New York at ten thirty five in the evening?"
you going to tell me Dad?"
would I do that?"
particular reason Dad ... so errr...how's New York?"
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
... err ...good Dad "
else you need to know son?"
no Dad. Guess I'll see you in a couple of days then."
forward to it."
night son. Oh ... and by the way ..."
your brothers did a great job out there today. I nearly forgot
to mention it."