When International Rescue is
called in to assist at a dormitory fire, they find challenges
at different levels for all concerned.
could have been much worse. The sprinkler system activated
quickly and the internal fire doors effectively closed off the
eastern wing of the high-rise dormitory building. The same
could not be said of the central section, although the fire
department was doing an admirable job of keeping the fire
contained there. But it was the west wing of the building,
where the fire had started, that Fire Chief McLain had been so
concerned about. Although he now seemed embarrassed to have
troubled International Rescue with a call for help.
Tracy now sat at Mobile Control with the fire chief nearby,
awaiting reports from their respective crews. With them waited
an official from the college, as the fire had occurred in what
had been, prior to the fire, a graceful dormitory building.
had to wait very long. As Scott's brothers began reporting in,
he switched their conversations over to his headset, allowing
more discreet communications with his brothers as well as
allowing the fire chief to hear his own radio traffic more
been tasked with getting an accounting of the residents after
it became apparent that Firefly was not needed. Gordon and
John had deployed the special elevator car equipped with the
dicetylene jets to help contain the fire. They had been
assigned to check the eight rooms on each floor of the ravaged
western wing looking for victims. Their efforts appeared to
have been unnecessary, as everyone had apparently evacuated
glad you folks were available," the chief commented
sheepishly, "although I hope we didn't keep you from something
more life-threatening than this turned out to be. I was
certain that those boys..."
not boys," the woman next to him corrected, using a tone that
implied that this was not a new discussion. "They are young
men with challenges."
can use all the politically correct terms you want, Jessie,"
McLain countered. "But the fact remains that some of those
"young men" might have panicked and might not have been
capable of evacuating safely. Even you spent too much time in
there accounting for everyone."
turned a puzzled frown to the matronly, middle-aged woman, who
the fire chief had not deigned to introduce. Her short brown
hair was disheveled and her face was streaked with smoke.
extended her hand to him. "I'm Jessie Myles. I'm the project
monitor for the group of men on the fourth floor." At Scott's
inquiring look, she continued to explain the chief's concerns.
"The university set aside a few rooms in that residence hall
for a unique experiment. In a joint project of the departments
of mental health and vocational rehabilitation, we paired
sixteen young men and housed them all on the same floor. One
of each pair is physically disabled, the other has some mental
impairments. The idea is that while the physically impaired
member pursues a college degree, the other acts as his aide
and companion. In this way both receive training for a viable
occupation by the time the physically impaired student
graduates. Unfortunately," she glanced grimly at the fire
chief, "the plan has some detractors..."
all for those guys being able to make their own way in the
world," the man protested. "It's just that putting two men who
can't take care of themselves alone doesn't mean that they can
take care of themselves together..."
moment, one of the lights on mobile control began to flash,
indicating an incoming message.
turned to his monitors. "Just a moment... FAB, Virgil. What?
Yes, she's right here..." He looked up with a grim expression.
"Ms. Myles, apparently two of your charges are missing and the
rest are very upset; all Virgil can make out is that their
names are Silas and Daniel."
blanched, and gazed up at the smoldering building. "Oh, no..."
gently settled her into the seat at the control panel before
she fell. "Virgil, stand by." Chief McLain knelt down at her
side, a hand settled on her shoulders. "Ms. Myles--Jessie.
Let's stay optimistic. We know they got out of the wing of the
building. Both International Rescue and my men searched every
floor and didn't find anyone, remember?"
the hair back from her face and took a deep breath, regaining
her composure. "Yes, that's right."
you tell me about these two men?" Scott asked. "Is there
another way they could have escaped the fire?"
sighed. "Other than one is mentally impaired and the other
uses a wheelchair?" She tempered her words with a slight
smile, and continued to gather herself. "Silas was designated
"educatable mentally impaired", Daniel has Muscular Dystrophy.
Those two were probably the most successful pairing we made.
Silas can't be taught to read and has memory retention issues,
but he can drive a car as long as he has a co-pilot and he is
a talented cook. Daniel is completely confined to a motorized
wheelchair--he's the most physically disabled student
here--but he has a brilliant mind. He was...is... one semester
away from an engineering degree."
Silas is strong enough to lift Daniel if he needed to. Is it
possible they could have managed to get into the east wing
before the doors closed?" She was looking hopefully up at the
fire chief, who stood, worrying his mustache.
possible," he admitted, "if the mentally deficient boy could
get the other over the fire threshold."
light flashed at mobile control again. "Yes, John. One
moment." Scott quickly snatched up a pair of binoculars and
trained them on the balcony on the far eastern end of the
building. "Got 'em, John! Good work!"
back to the two anxious people at his side. "Ms. Myles, Chief,
they're okay." He pointed up at the balcony four stories above
them, as the thick smoke began to clear enough to see the two
figures huddled there. They were relatively safe for the
breathed a sigh of relief, but the woman still looked upset.
"But how are we ever going to get them down?" she mourned,
echoing his own, though less frantic, thoughts.
turned back to her with a reassuring smile. "We'll get them
down, Ms. Myles. We just have to figure out the best way to do
that." He pursed his lips thoughtfully, then reached out to
flick one of the switches in front of him. This created an
open circuit, one which created a conference that included all
the deployed International Rescue operatives and by-passed his
headset to allow Chief McLain and Jessie Myles to hear what
was being discussed.
Control to Base. Open contact."
Scott," Jeff Tracy's gravelly baritone wound from the
the situation, Base..." Scott went on to summarize the
circumstances for his father and Brains on Tracy Island, and
also for Alan, who was listening in from the satellite.
"...So, unless, the chief here believes that Thunderbird Two's
vertical jets will cause a further hazard, I believe the
rescue capsule can be lowered and the two men could be
assisted on board..."
looked dubious, but nodded his head. "Yes, if your men can get
close enough, that should work," he said slowly.
then, Scott," Jeff agreed. "Let me know if you hit any snags.
Bra...I mean, our people here will be working out any possible
Base," Scott responded. "Virgil, leave the pod on the ground.
John, you operate the winch. I think Gordon would be the best
man in the capsule to help get the handicapped man aboard."
"FAB" 's acknowledged his orders, and Thunderbird Two was soon
watched anxiously as Virgil's great green pride and joy
hovered high above the building, looking oddly misshapen
without the central pod that normally filled the space between
the twin booms connecting the tail section to the nose
section. She then began a gentle vertical descent to within
mere feet of the roof. A hatch slid open under the flight
deck, and the opening filled as the rescue capsule was
skillfully maneuvered into place.
could be seen behind the capsule's narrow railing, his copper
hair glinting in the fitful sunlight that penetrated the
clearing smoky pall surrounding the building. Scott noticed
that he had donned a fire-proof suit, sans the blocky head
Scott barked over the radio. "Where's your helmet?"
see Gordon lift his arm and push back the sleeve to get to his
it right here," Gordon raised his other hand, showing him the
bulky head piece that normally covered his head and shoulders.
"But this thing makes us look like something from outer space.
I didn't want to frighten those two guys."
glowered, unseen by his brother, then re-considered when he
saw Jessie nod approvingly.
capsule continued to slowly lower, until its floor was level
with the top rail of the balcony. Gordon retracted the
railing, and hopped lightly to the balcony floor. There, he
held a brief discussion with the two young men, accompanied by
much head shaking by all three men. Finally, Gordon raised his
telecom to his mouth again, a note of exasperation in his
voice. "Scott, Daniel refuses to leave his chair behind, and
Silas won't lift him out of it until we agree to take it
anxious expression became a scowl, as he expelled an irritated
sigh. He knew there wouldn't be enough room in the rescue
capsule for the young men, the wheelchair, AND Gordon.
those chairs are custom-fitted and very expensive," Jessie
interjected. "Daniel is literally helpless without it, and to
deprive him of it would be like an amputation. Isn't there
some way to rescue his chair, too? Silas and your man Gordon
should be able to lift it into the capsule..."
her a moment, then reluctantly nodded and keyed the radio.
"Gordon, send the two students AND the chair up. John, as soon
as they unload, send the capsule back down for Gordon."
uh, Base is not gonna like it," John's voice warned.
but I'll deal with that later," Scott responded.
John replied, resigned.
capsule was making its painstaking way back up to Thunderbird
Two when the chief's radio crackled out a message that Scott
couldn't hear clearly.
McLain turned to Scott. "We've got a critical flare-up in the
central section! It's building toward a flash-over..."
Scott had a chance to warn Gordon, an ominous rumble rattled
the intact windows of the building and the ground shook
beneath them. Gordon, still without his protective head
covering, only had enough time to drop down and cover his head
and face with his arms before the heat-resistant glass doors
to the balcony shattered violently outward with a gout of
flame and dark debris.
Scott stared up at the balcony that his brother had occupied
only moments before, but could see nothing at first except
smoke and flaming debris.
trying to wrap his mind around the events that occurred above
him, when John's voice ripped through Mobile Control's
speakers. "Scott! I can't see Gordon!"
swallowed hard against the dryness of his mouth. "Are the
victims secure?" he managed at last.
FAB," John acknowledged, clearly getting himself under control
into a fire suit—a FULL fire suit—and switch winch control
over to Virgil. Virg, can you get any lower?"
"Negative," Virgil sounded despondent. "If I move enough to
clear the building, we'd be too far from the balcony for the
capsule to reach it."
ready," John announced.
what?" The voice was breathless and choking, but it was
report!" Scott barked automatically. He tried again. "Are you
I've been better..." Gordon breathed. "Hey John, if you're
ready, then you better lower that capsule...It's a little hard
to talk here with all this smoke..."
the..." John grumbled, but clearly relieved. "Be right
soon back on solid ground, his hair and face smoke-stained, as
the chief and teacher offered their profuse thanks to the
team. Against his older brothers' better judgment, Gordon
insisted he was uninjured and had refused any attention from
the EMTs standing by. Daniel attempted to extend his hand to
the red-headed Tracy, a motion that looked more like he was
throwing his arm toward him using his shoulder muscles, while
Silas gave him an unself-conscious hug.
Scott," said Chief McLain, "I guess International Rescue
didn't make a completely wasted trip."
really, those two practically rescued themselves without us,"
Scott replied. "If it hadn't been for the back-flash, you'd
have found a way to get them down." He turned to the Project
Monitor with a grin. "Looks like your project is not a wasted
effort, either. Those young men conducted themselves well,
without any outside intervention."
didn't they?" Jessie remarked, then turned a sardonic grin to
the fire chief, who returned a somewhat grudging answering
they did okay...So Silas is great cook, huh? See if you can
arrange for him to come down to the fire station and audition
for our shift cook after Daniel graduates. You know a fire
company is always on the look out for a great cook..."
what I can do, chief, I'll see what I can do..."