Part of a rescue told from a
different point of view. Set during the run-up to Christmas.
Author's Notes: Thanks to my
beta Pen, also for the title suggestions and letting me use
her passenger lounge idea :)
the first two words that came into my head when I saw your
face appear at the window. I don't know if I said them out
loud - you must have thought me crazy if I did - but it hit me
in a strange way nonetheless.
figure was dark against the bright Christmas lights outside,
but when I did see your face, you looked tired and washed out.
I hadn't really thought about how your operatives must feel
after long rescues like this one. I see articles in the news
about you pulling off a successful rescue time and time again,
yet the only thing I think about is 'Hurrah for IR!' Didn't
you once undertake a rescue that took nearly sixty hours? A
have been exhausted.
had a chance to think anything else, you grabbed me around the
waist and pulled me from the building. I screamed. I'm sure I
did... unless there was another girl with us. I don't think
there was. I was on the forty-ninth floor. Surely we would
die? But it turned out you were secured, dangling from the big
green plane above - the second one, right? So for a moment I
felt safe, until I remembered that the only thing holding me
up was you.
have worried. You had a strong grip. You probably train every
day, to ensure that if things like this happen, you're
prepared. You secured a harness around me anyway, just in
your other arm and spoke into your watch. At first I didn't
realize what you were doing. I was scared you'd gone loopy.
But then something - someone - replied. They said 'FAB.' What
does that mean? Does it just mean fab? Or does it stand for
have asked if we hadn't been suspended three hundred and fifty
feet in the air, dangling by a thin wire that looked like it
might snap any moment. Don't look up, I thought, scared that I
might panic seeing how far we had to go to get to the big
green craft. So I looked down.
you sensed my unease, because you squeezed tighter and
reassured me that I was fine, and it would all be over in a
looked again and got the first real glance at your face. God,
you're so young. Thirties. Not even a touch of grey in your
dark brown hair. Yet your eyes have seen so much more...
they're such a deep blue. What horrors have you seen? How does
it feel when you fail? How much death do you see?
with the watch gripped the wire and you let out a breath of
air. You glanced over at me and caught me staring at you. I
turned away, embarrassed, and you let out a short laugh.
feeling okay?" you called over the wind, and I nodded dumbly
in reply. I was too shocked to say anything. It's not every
day one finds themselves hanging from a thin wire in the arms
of an IR operative, hundreds of feet above the ground.
hundreds of theories about International Rescue. Some say
you're an underground rescue organization that has been
planned since Jesus walked the earth, but has only recently
come into practice. Others think you're robots, complete with
rubber faces,capable of emotions and working hands.
That's why you're always wearing the full-length uniforms: to
hide your mechanics. Some crazy fanatics even came up with the
idea that you're from outer space and operate from a space
station orbiting the earth.
I had no doubt it was flesh and blood, bones and muscle under
that uniform. You looked shattered. We were higher up the wire
and closer to the big green plane when I realized you were
worried. It was in your eyes.
At first I
thought it was because the wire was snapping. It couldn't take
the weight of both of us. But it became obvious that it wasn't
- it was something less direct, something going on in the
background. You looked like you wanted to do something, but
you couldn't make up your mind if you should.
you did. You lifted your watch and spoke again. "How's he
doing?" I didn't catch the answer. It was swallowed by a large
gust of wind, just as you swallowed something else and cut the
connection. You saw me looking and shook your head.
our operatives was injured on the ground. He's the one who
usually - " You stopped yourself and turned away. I wasn't
sure whether it was because of something you were going
through, or because you didn't want me to know that you didn't
usually do this job and were less experienced with it. It's
okay. I'd trust you with my life, anyway.
must have back-up for each job? A huge organization like yours
must have at least a couple of dozen operatives. Otherwise
what would happen when you get two rescues at once? Do you
have two of every vehicle? How many bases are there?
there aren't many rescues, though. Well, not that we hear of.
So many questions - if only you weren't so secretive.
Apparently cameras are disabled by something in the big
rocket-like thing. I don't know. I never was fantastic at
office block collapsed. I turned wildly when I heard the first
rumblings, and caught a glimpse through my window at my
special orange chair descending rapidly out of sight, before
it was crushed by the floor above. Oh, God... how many people
were down on the ground? Were they all out of the way?
screaming wildly, shouting incoherent things, I think. I
caught a glimpse of your face and you were trying to get me to
calm down. When the block hit the ground, it was so loud it
was like I was trying to drown out the sound. I think I might
have sworn a bit, and at one point I think one of my flailing
arms contacted your face. I'm sorry about that - I think I
just had a panicky moment. You probably never panic. You don't
look like the panicky type. You grabbed my hands, stopped them
moving and looked me in the eye, and you said,
down. We've got everything under control. We've evacuated
everything down there. Nobody will get hurt."
have looked puzzled, because you explained. "You were the last
one we got out of the building. Ssh, calm down now. It's
finally approached the big green plane, I reached out and
touched it as we were pulled inside. My fiancÚ would be so
jealous. You gave me a bemused look and shook your head.
metal," you said, as if you thought I believed it was some
special material. I knew that. Did you know I knew that, or
were you just trying to cheer me up?
I like the
way you take every effort to ensure your 'rescuees' are as
comfortable as possible. You could have easily left us in a
small, metal room until we landed, but no - you've thought of
a bright blue sofa that I decided to sit on, because I liked
the color. Maybe you chose it. There was another lady sitting
on it, and she smiled at me. I vaguely recognized her as the
woman who works a couple floors under me. There were three
other sofas, occupied by others. Why weren't there more of us?
An entire office block falling at this time of day -
time of day. It's evening. I remember now... I stayed late,
trying to finish something. I can't even remember what it was
- it hardly seems important anymore.
sure I was comfortable and then left, presumably to find out
how your colleague was. There was a big logo on the wall. I
remember staring at it until we landed. I liked it... a lot.
It reminded me of that old song we used to sing in
kindergarten... He's got the whole word, in his hands...
talking about God, of course. I always loved pictures like
that, because they felt safe. You're kind of like God, in a
way. You help all these people and never ask for anything in
return. Except maybe you're better than God, because God asks
for love and you don't ask for anything.
always tells me that I talk too much when I'm faced with a
free minute or two. If you were here with me, I'd probably be
saying all this out loud and you'd think I was crazier than
you already do.
were different, I'd probably have been saying that to everyone
else there, but the mood was so somber and serious that I
didn't want to break the silence, awkward as it was. No-one
said anything for the whole five minutes we were in there
were back down on the ground, you came back and led us
outside. All the others wandered away, after murmuring an
acknowledgement to your shoulder. I would have scolded them if
I had the courage. I promised myself I'd give you a heartfelt
thanks when it was my turn, and look you in the eye when I
did. Just before I got the chance, a man came down from the
front of your plane and joined you, putting a hand on your
shoulder. He was shorter than you and built like a tank, and
his hair was a shade lighter. But I was struck by the
resemblance between the two of you. You could have been
someone," he said to you in a quiet voice, the same voice that
had informed us when we were a couple minutes away from
landing. I guessed he was the pilot.
supposed to hear your conversation, but I did. Everything
seemed louder than it was, and his voice reverberated around
my head. "Apparently there was someone on the top floor."
and rubbed your hands over your face. In your eyes, you'd
failed. You'd let someone die, and that wasn't acceptable. I
wish I could have told you that you'd saved dozens of others,
and that was all that mattered, but the words wouldn't come.
The other guy put a hand on your shoulder and looked you in
the eye. "It wasn't your fault. Don't you dare go blaming
yourself, OK?" I was glad someone was able to reassure you.
you that you needed something to eat. You shook your head
before he'd even finished the sentence and insisted you were
fine, but it didn't take a genius to work out that you
weren't. The other guy thought so too.
eat something. Now."
minute. I need to make sure she's okay." Make sure who was
okay? There was nobody else within a fifty meter radius of us.
with it. Now go." You sighed and rubbed a hand across your
face. I could understand. Rescues like this must put enormous
pressure on you.
was that phrase again... FAB. I guess I'll never know what it
means. He pushed you back into the green plane with a
no-nonsense look on his face and turned to me. I couldn't
believe this was happening. It felt surreal. I should have
been upstairs in my office, dreaming about our wedding and
pretending to work when my boss came near. Things like this
don't happen to normal people like me. I should have been
skirting through sites on the Internet, looking at possible
transportations to and from the wedding. I'd like to go in a
Thunderbird... I'd feel safe... you wouldn't let anything
fine." I should have thanked you there and then. I should have
asked the man to thank you for me, even if I couldn't say it
to your face. But the words wouldn't come. My voice sounded
strange to my ears - it was hesitant, and not like me at all.
I shook my
head, too stunned by - everything - to reply. He really does
look like you. He looked just as worried and his frown lines
were exactly the same shape.
never work in an organization like this with my brothers and
sister. We'd just fight and make up constantly. It'd drive
everyone else mad. I wondered if they were okay... they must
have been worried sick. Theyhad all arrived that day to stay
and went back inside the plane; presumably to make sure you
were doing what he told you to. I don't know how long I stared
at the green bug afterwards. I don't know why, or what I was
looking for. If it wasn't for the genius who created these,
then I wouldn't be here today.
a floodlight to the left, highlighting the nose of the craft,
outlining it and making it look bigger. There isn't usually a
floodlight there, and I wondered where it came from. Was it
yours? I was glad it was here. All the Christmas lights had
gone off and everything else was dark. Even the street lamps
had turned off.
contrast between the light and the darkness seemed to swell
and blow out of proportion, and there were weird shadows
everywhere. Everything was twisting, and creating impossible
shapes. The craft got bigger and filled my vision. Strange
shapes wondered around me, making no sense, and I was
scared... so I stared at the big plane. It was usually green,
but it looked black because of the floodlight next to it. The
light was catching something on the side of the craft, causing
it to glint... and the outline to shine white out of the
markings that I was staring right at. Big, white letters.
Thunderbird 2. Bold, unafraid letters. Letters that meant
flashed back intomy mind. Your worried eyes, trying to
concentrate on the job when one of your colleagues was
injured. How hard that must have been. Is he okay? Do you know
close to him, too?
scared. Suddenly my mind was overwhelmed with everything. I
was confused... was it over? What was going on? We were
swinging in the air, with nothing below us. Nothing. Your arm
was around my waist, feeling like it was the only thing
stopping me from falling to my death. My death... a fall of
over 300 feet.
want to die. Don't let me go... please. If you do, I'll fall,
and there won't be anything to stop me. It'll just be me and
the thin air. The air's too thin to support my weight. I'll
fall, I'll keep falling... the lights will get bigger until
they're right in my face and then I won't... I won't see
anything, I'll stop feeling, except there might be pain, or
something... I don't know... just don't let me go.
Thunderbird 2. The big green plane that was carrying us and
saving us. Did it get to us in time? I couldn't remember.
Where was I? Where were you? Why weren't you with me? Why
couldn't I see your face anymore, or feel your arm? Was I
falling? I don't want to die. I'm too young. I'm engaged, my
fiancÚ will be devastated... who'll pick up my body?
I tried to
breath but the air was full of smoke. It was all around me,
and I couldn't see properly. I breathed harder, trying to get
oxygen, but my breaths got shallower and shallower and it
didn't matter anymore... I was going to die...
something under my feet. I didn't understand. I could hear
voices, but I couldn't understand what they were saying.
Someone put their hands on my shoulders and pushed gently, and
somehow my feet corresponded and moved with them. I wasn't
doing anything. I was falling. Surely. You were falling with
me. I could see your face and you were worried. You were going
to die too, and you wouldn't have to do the winch job anymore.
It was your hands on my shoulders. Your mouth was moving and
you were trying to say something, but no words were coming
out. You weren't surprised... or scared. Why weren't you
scared? Are you used to dying?
disappeared and was replaced with another face, an older face.
I must have been dreaming.
dark. I felt like I was climbing out of a black pool of
darkness, reaching for a light just above me. I didn't feel
any pain. Is this death? My hands were down by my sides. I
should have been swimming, reaching for the light, but my
hands weren't listening to me. I tried to force them to move,
but only my middle finger heard and twitched a bit. My legs
wouldn't move either. They were up against each other; I could
feel each one against the other. The green of your uniform
drifted about in the light above , moving from left to right
and back again.
there," you said, but your voice was gruffer, older. The green
moved down and I saw your face - but it was different. Your
hair wasn't the same color. Your eyes were different and there
were more lines on your face - oh no, did your colleague die?
uniform wasn't green.
blinked and saw it actually wasn't you. It was a paramedic. He
was in his forties, at least. Where are you?
you say?" I didn't realize I'd said that out loud. The
paramedic helped me to sit up and I shook my head to try and
clear some of the nausea.
happened?" My voice sounded different. It wasn't mine... it
was too loud. It was someone else's voice.
okay. Calm down. You went into shock."
Shock. Shock. The word echoed around my head and gave me a
headache. I didn't want to be ill. I wanted to go outside and
see you again. This place was too small. I realized it was an
ambulance, and I was the only person inside it. Except for the
to go outside and see the office block. Did it fall in the
end, or did you manage to save it? Then I remembered hearing
it crash behind me when you picked me up. It fell down and the
cloud came up.
thinking straight," I said to the paramedic. He gave me a
funny look - like the one you gave me when I touched the big
green plane. Thunderbird Two.
want to get some fresh air?" I nodded and he took me by the
elbow and led me outside. I felt like a small child. When I
saw the heap of rubble that used to be my work place and the
fallen Christmas lights that weren't lit up anymore, I wanted
to cry. I took deep breaths, but the air smelt like smoke and
I was scared. The paramedic gave me an oxygen mask and I was
so grateful I could have hugged him.
couldn't breathe," I said. He had his hand on my arm,
You were hyperventilating."
at him and saw that he was looking at me. He was trying to
decide if I was still in shock - I guess I wasn't making much
around me had changed, I saw. The floodlights shone bright
columns into the sky and lit up everything below, making the
sky harder to see. Beyond the bright lights, it looked dark.
Much darker than it had been. There were more people milling
around, to help clear up. I wanted to help. If there was
anything I could do, that was it. A truck was arriving and its
orange flashing lights reminded me that it was nearly
to the left of the office block to see if you were anywhere
near Thunderbird Two.
half an hour ago, ma'am. You were out for quite a while."
You've left already? I wanted to say goodbye. I never even got
to thank you. How do you carry on if people don't thank you? I
wanted to thank whoever had been flying Thunderbird Two with
such skill - was it the second man I'd seen? I wanted to thank
you, for holding me and making sure I didn't fall and ensuring
I'd live to see my wedding day and get to live with my
Christmas I'll be married... thanks to you. I hope you have a
brilliant Christmas. You deserve it.
see the sky, but I was sure I would have been able to hear you
if you were still nearby. A craft the size of yours couldn't
be quiet. There was no sign of you - of course there wouldn't
have been. Your planes are really fast. You were on your way
back home. To your base - underground, outer space...
wherever. Somewhere you can get some sleep and your colleague
gets better. I hope he's okay now - I never even found out
people like me do you deal with every time? How many people go
through the same thought processes as I did, and wish they
could go home with you, just to catch a glimpse of what your
many times do you have to face death and failure, and be
accused on the news the next day of not being good enough? You
try your best. I, for one, can vouch for that.
I hope you
get a good meal and a long night's sleep. I hope for your sake
you don't get another call out for a few days.
sometimes people forget your fundamental flaw, and that makes
the failures so much harder. You guys are normal - you're just
like the rest of us. You try to make the world a better place,
but sometimes even your best effort is just not good enough.
It's not your fault. What you do is fantastic for who you are.