Written for the 2004 TIWF Missing Scene Challenge.

This a missing scene from Operation Crash-Dive. It occurs after the scene in which Gordon holds the cut ends of the EPU cable together and keeps the Fireflash from crashing into the ocean. But how does the Fireflash manage to land without her elevators in operation? And how did Gordon leave the plane afterward?

Virgil vowed that this would absolutely be the last time he'd offer a suggestion, because this had to be the most hare-brained idea he'd ever had. 

Eariler, International Rescue had volunteered to help determine the cause of the Fireflash malfunctions that sent more than 600 people to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and would have caused the deaths of another test crew had not the Thunderbirds arrived to rescue them.  After rescuing the second crew, it had been Virgil who suggested that they test-fly a Fireflash with Thunderbird Two alongside to help if need be. Well, help was certainly needed now, but he was unable to do more than watch the crippled airliner as it, in Scott's words, was "about to make one colossal crash-dive into the Atlantic Ocean."

Along with Captain Hansen, who was only too glad to help out the organization that had saved his life when the maiden Fireflash flight had been sabotaged, Scott had taken off in yet another Fireflash. Well over the Atlantic, they discovered that the automatic locator had been giving them a wrong position.  Then the problems began to escalate; first they lost power in some of the hydraulics, and then the gyro-stabilizers began to fail.

Alan on Thunderbird Five was able to help them correct their course and Fireflash was still operational, though severely hampered.  Virgil was beginning to feel that having Thunderbird Two alongside was superfluous.  And then both the Elevator Power Unit on Fireflash and its standby malfunctioned.  Scott just couldn't raise the nose of the huge airliner and they had about 15 minutes before they crashed into the ocean.  Then the radio signal to London Control went dead. 

Alan was able to relay messages between the airliner and London, and told them that London had advocated bailing out of the crippled plane.  Scott rejected this suggestion, as it left the questions they hoped to answer unresolved.  So they quickly moved toward the  "scheme" they worked out earlier, one that involved winching Gordon into the starboard wing to ascertain the trouble and fix it. 

They had kept communication with the cockpit to a bare minimum, hoping to keep their secrets from Captain Hansen, so only Virgil and Alan had heard all of Gordon's commentary.  Gordon had located the malfunctioning Elevator Power Unit in the starboard wing with less than three minutes left before they crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, only to discover that the leads into it had been cut.  Subsequently, the elevators that directed the airflow over the wings and gave Fireflash more lift dropped into their default "down" position; this was why Scott and the captain couldn't keep her nose up. 

Then Virgil heard a gunshot over Gordon's radio. The saboteur was still on board!

Virgil could not hear what the saboteur had to say, but he could hear all of Gordon's half of the exchange... and every single gunshot.  Then his heart stopped for an instant, as a body tumbled out of the hatch.  It took that instant for his mind to register that the falling figure was not wearing Gordon's blue jumpsuit.    

When Gordon finally responded to Scott's frantic calls on the other circuit, Virgil's heart went to his mouth.  With only thirty seconds before they hit the water, and too little time to bail out, there was not enough time for Gordon to repair the leads to the EPU. 

At that moment, Virgil wasn't worried as much about the men in the cockpit as he was about Gordon in the mechanical compartment of the starboard wing.  Scott had taken the precaution of a taking an inflatable life raft and a laser cutter with him into the Fireflash; he and Captain Hansen would have time to cut their way out before the aircraft sank, if the hydraulics failed and the emergency hatch would not open. 

But Gordon was completely exposed, because the EPU also controlled some of the hydraulics, notably those that closed the starboard hatch.  The airliner was still falling at half the speed of sound; at that velocity, the water flooding in would crush anything in its path, including his brother.  At best, he'd be killed immediately, never knowing what hit him; at worst, he'd be knocked unconscious and drown, even before the Fireflash sank.  

Virgil was trying to make his panicked mind come up with a solution as Captain Hansen announced, in a shaking voice, the time that remained before impact.  "Ten seconds, Tracy."

"Oh, God. Not again, not Gordon,"  Virgil whispered fervently. 

Suddenly, the Fireflash leveled out, apparently only inches from the water's surface, and shot steeply upward. Virgil wasn't sure how he did it, but Gordon had somehow gotten enough current to travel through the EPU leads to make the unit operate, at least long enough to pull them out of the dive.  As the open hatch flashed past him, Virgil could see a bright blue light flickering deep in the interior of the mechanical bay. 

"Gordon!" Virgil shouted joyfully.  "You did it!" 

The unexplained static made it difficult to hear Gordon's  response, but there was no mistaking the pain in his voice.  Virgil's heart sank again.   "Great, Virg...but ... I don't ... know ... how long I ... can ... hold it..."  Then the radio squealed and went dead. 

Virgil hit the open contact with Fireflash's cockpit.  "Scott!  Gordon's in trouble!"

"Those gunshots!" Scott responded grimly. "Was he hit?"

"I don't know.  He just said he couldn't hold the EPU and his radio went dead.  He sounded pretty bad off."  Then Virgil recalled the flickering light from the hatch, and it hit him.  "He must be holding those leads in his bare hands!" 

"And the current in that thing ..."  Scott trailed off.  "Height and speed?"  He barked at Captain Hansen. 

"Coming up on 20,000 feet... and 700 miles per hour," the pilot read from his instruments.

"Scott, I don't think Gordon had his oxygen on ..." Virgil reminded him.

Scott made some quick decisions.  "Captain, shut down the EPU.  Reduce speed to low safe cruising.  Virgil, as soon as we've slowed, get Thunderbird Two in position right under our nose.  You're gonna have to use your vertical jets to keep us on a slow descent until I can get to Gordon and fix those EPU leads.   If we reach one thousand feet, relay to me through Alan.  But I hope to have the EPU up before that." 

"FAB," Virgil said firmly, matching his Thunderbird's velocity to that of the huge airliner, and hoping he'd masked his apprehension enough to keep its pilot from worrying.  In theory, the big International Rescue transport could keep the Fireflash from tipping into another death dive, if he could get Thunderbird Two under her and get her balanced.  He'd trained for the scenerio numerous times in simulation.   He'd never done it in actual practice. 

"Alan?" Scott addressed their youngest brother, whom Virgil had been listening to their exchange. 

"Yes, Scott."  Their youngest brother's voice was in its professional mode, revealing little of the anxiety they all shared.  

"Get on to base and have Brains consult the schematics.  I'm going to use the laser cutter to enter the starboard compartment from the lounge in the wing and I don't want to cut through anything vital to keeping us in the air.  Ideally, I need a section about two feet square."

"Right, Scott."

In a few moments, their respective velocities adequately slowed and matched, Virgil  adjusted the angles of Thunderbird Two's four topside cameras - starboard and port near her reverse-swept wings, and at her nose and tail sections - so he could see and center the nose section of the Fireflash directly overhead.  Then he shut down the wailing proximity alarms.  

He radioed the Fireflash cockpit.  "I'm in position, Fireflash.  Hold on."  He gritted his teeth as the airliner's nose, without any power to its elevators to maintain level flight, gradually dropped down on top of him.  There was a subtle thud, and he allowed himself a grim smile; he'd anticipated the impact of the airliner and almost instinctively permitted his craft a slight dip to lessen the blow. 

"Well done, Virgil!"  Scott congratulated his brother's skill.  "We barely felt that."

"FAB.  Let's hope we don't hit too much turbulence and get knocked off balance."   Now Virgil moved the levers that opened the hatch of the compartment directly above him and extended a magnetic clamp to keep the two craft connected.  The arrangement was not as aerodynamic as the two aircraft alone, but the slight buffeting was better than Fireflash sliding to either side and smashing the stronger but smaller Thunderbird beneath her. 

As soon as all was secure, Scott turned to the airline pilot. "I'm going to see what's going on down there."

Hansen's response was filled with empathy.  "I hope your man is all right."

Virgil couldn't hear Scott's reply; he knew this stranger's concern brought a lump to his throat that he couldn't have spoken around.  Then Virgil was relieved when his brother activated the telecom in his watch.  He understood that keeping Captain Hansen out of the loop kept him from learning too much about International Rescue, but they were all deeply worried about Gordon.  "Virg, any contact with Gordon?"

"No, there was a lot of electronic noise when his radio died.  I imagine the current fried it."

"Alan, how about you?  Did you try his telecom?" Scott asked next.

"Yeah, right after he talked to Virgil last ... I think I heard the same noise.  It must've fried his telecom, too."   

Virgil could tell from the picture he was getting from Scott's telecom that he had reached  the starboard lounge of the airliner.  Then the image swung dizzily as he unslung the laser from his shoulder.  "Brains, have you found a place for me to cut, yet?"

"Yes, Scott.  I-it will be a tight fit, but you should be able to see Gordon when you've g-gotten through."

He gave Scott the location, and then they all heard a loud ripping sound as Scott pulled up a large piece of carpeting to get at the metal flooring.  Then the telecom image showed light flashing off the walls as the laser began its work. 

Finally, Scott said the words they'd all been waiting to hear: "I'm through!  I can see him." 

Virgil let out the breath he'd been holding, then took it up again at Scott's next words, shouted over the howling of the wind through the starboard hatch.  "He's fallen over onto the EPU component block ..." Then the image from his telecom moved wildly as Scott dropped through the opening he'd made and onto the decking of the compartment. 

Virgil got a brief glimpse of Gordon's blue coverall bent over the console, his helmet still in place, as Scott bounced to his feet.  "Gordon!" Scott shouted over the wind.  Then, for their benefit: "He's unconscious!"  Again, the image moved, as he obviously laid Gordon down on the floor.  Scott let out a low whistle, and when he spoke again, his voice was dark with worry.  "Gordon's hands are badly blistered, and there's a dark burn on his chest.  He must have fallen over the leads when he passed out ... The good news is his breathing and heart rate are strong and steady."  

Virgil looked at his instruments in alarm.  "Scott! we're at a nine hundred feet!"

"Son..." Virgil heard his father's strained voice from base.  He realized he wasn't the only one who had been holding his breath.  "...Scott, if Gordon's not in distress, you've got to get that EPU working..."

"Right, Father."  After a second of hesitation, the image Virgil was seeing moved again.

Then Scott uttered a short curse.  "Most of the wires in the cable have fused.  There was so much power going through them, the insulation caught fire and now they're nearly welded together.  There's no way we can control the individual elevators now!  It's all or nothing!"

"Scott, we've got to get some altitude!"  Virgil reminded him urgently.  "This much mass is way beyond Thunderbird Two's capacity!"

"FAB." Scott answered as he blew out a breath.  "I need to get some tape from Gordon, or we're gonna have a real fire down here..."  The visual from his telecom moved, and Virgil got another look at Gordon, this time at his face, reddened as if from a deep sunburn, as Scott rummaged in the tool pouch Gordon had fastened to his winch harness.  Then the image underwent some jerky movements, as Scott wrapped the tape around the fused wires. 

"Okay," Virgil saw Scott's face swing into view as his brother lifted his watch to speak into it.  "Alan, tell Captain Hansen that control from the EPU will operate all the elevators at once and equally.  When he flips that switch, the Fireflash will take a steep climb, and it'll keep climbing until he shuts it off again.  Virgil, you and the captain will have to coordinate.  Have him leave the EPU in the "on" position until we hit about fifteen thousand feet, then shut it off again."

The situation was quickly explained to the Fireflash pilot, and then Virgil took over flight control.  "Ready, Scott?  Hang on to Gordon!"

"FAB."  The view from Scott's watch showed a low angle that suddenly shifted as he found some type of handhold to keep both himself and the still-unconscious Gordon from being thrown around the compartment. 

Now Virgil gave a brief countdown : "Three ... two... one! and... Up!"  Fireflash suddenly jerked upward in a steep climb, as Virgil tried to compensate for the sudden loss in weight.  He didn't have time to look, but he could hear Scott grunt as he held on. 

"Nearing fifteen thousand feet..." Virgil announced tightly.  "... Fourteen seven...fourteen eight... fourteen nine ... fifteen thousand!  Cut the EPU!"

Fireflash slammed downward, as the elevators snapped back into their original positions, but the magnetic clamp keeping her and Thunderbird Two together held.  Virgil added just enough vertical lift to keep the two craft out of a sharp dive as they continued their tandem flight. 

"Convey a well done to the captain, Alan.  Good job, Virg."  Virgil could hear something in Scott's voice that was more than just trying to breathe in the thin atmosphere at this height, but before he could wonder if his brother was hurt and hiding it, the image from the telecom moved again.  "I'm going to get Gordon up into the lounge and get him taken care of ..." Scott said briskly.

Virgil again divided his attention between keeping the two aircraft in the air and watching the display from Scott's telecom.  Scott grunted, as somehow he pulled Gordon, who remained unconscious, up through the manhole he'd cut into the floor and up into the warmth and pressurized air of the lounge. 

"How's Gordon?" Alan asked anxiously when the movement of the telecom ceased.

"Still unconscious, Al,"  Scott answered, catching his breath.  "But the burn on his chest doesn't look as bad as I thought at first... looks like his flight suit and harness took the worst of it.  His hands are blistered, but I don't believe the deep tissue is damaged."

"Bet there's a first aid kit behind the bar there," Virgil offered.  Even with the movements of Scott's arm, he had seen the refined appointments of the luxury airliner's lounge. 

Scott moved in that direction, and then his arm with the watch swung forward, revealing a number of tumblers and bottles, as he reached under the counter.  "Yeah, you're right.  Good thinking, Virg."

A few moments later, Gordon's blistered hands bandaged, his burned chest and face treated, Scott hesitated.  "Brains, I'm worried that he still hasn't awakened.  Should I try to bring him around?  There's some smelling salts here..." 

"N-no, Scott.  He's better off unconscious, c-considering the extent of the burns he's received.  I-if his color is g-good and he's breathing c-comfortably, he should be f-fine." 

"Okay, then."  The picture moved when Scott stood up.  "Let me find a blanket...ah, here's one at the steward's workstation... and cover him...  Then I better get back to the cockpit and help Captain Hansen get this puppy landed.  I'll be switching back to the cockpit radio, so watch yourselves ..."

Virgil couldn't help it.  He rolled his eyes and laughed, releasing some of the anxiety that had settled on him since the initial near-crash dive.  They "weren't out of the woods yet", as Grandma would have said, but Gordon appeared to be all right and Scott's return to his usual imperious tone indicated that he was feeling better about the situation.  Somehow, if Scott was upbeat, Virgil knew it would all come together to a good ending.  He wasn't surprised to hear laughter from the other parties on the circuit, while Scott's image from the telecom wore a nonplused expression.

Once Scott was back in the cockpit of the Fireflash, they checked in with London Control.  So much had occurred since the last report, it seemed impossible that ten minutes had passed, but Commander Norman was nearly frantic with worry.  Alan quickly assured him that things were well in hand, although the loss of the Fireflash's elevators was still a grave concern. 

As they were passing over the Celtic Sea, Scott decided that they needed more altitude to make it back to London and the EPU was again activated for a brief period, with Scott providing flight control. 

Once again, the airliner lifted immediately into a steep climb, but this time, Scott had Virgil release the magnetic clamp that linked Fireflash to Thunderbird Two.  Then he gave the go-ahead for the big transport to return to London ahead of them and set up the emergency elevator cars.  He needed to be ready; some communication for the hydraulics in the starboard landing gear, like those to the hatch, were fused in the EPU cable.

As Virgil landed and the nose and tail sections of Thunderbird Two were lifting to open the pod, he was starkly reminded of their very first rescue, hardly more than a year ago.  It had occurred at this very airport, involving a Fireflash with someone he held very dear aboard.  Then it had been Tin-Tin, on the final leg of her journey home after completing her education; this time it carried two of his brothers, both of whom were particularly close to him. 

He listened carefully as London Control completed the process of clearing the airport of non-essential personnel.  Fireflash's atomic engines were carefully shielded, but if International Rescue inexplicably failed, and the jet crashed, there was a very real danger of radiation leakage.  The airport had been sealed before they took off earlier, but now even the personnel with high security clearance were asked to evacuate.  Then, Control alerted the several observers along the flight path of the crippled airliner and asked Fireflash to lower her landing gear.  The observers were instructed to pay particular attention to the position of the starboard wheels.

Virgil found himself releasing a breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding as all the observers checked in with a positive report that the all the wheels had indeed been lowered.  Now all he could do is wait, watch, and pray, along with everyone else in the vicinity.  Even though they appeared to be correctly configured, did the landing gear lock into place; would the hydraulics hold once the weight of the plane came to bear on them?

And then he could see the Fireflash. Even a mile from the airport, she looked huge.  And she was too low, her nose too deep. Now that he no longer needed immediate communication with the tower, Virgil could concentrate on the open contact circuit, listening intently to what was happening in the Fireflash cockpit. 

"...Toggle the EPU switch to lift the nose a bit at a time,"  Scott was saying, caught in mid-sentence. 

Yes, he could see the nose come up. Just a bit more, Scott, Virgil thought, desperately wishing that Grandma's assertions that he and his brother shared a telepathic connection was true. 

Almost as if Scott had heard him, Virgil could hear him grunt.  "Just a bit more..."

Suddenly, the enormous jet was over the runway.  The nose rose a fraction and the rear wheels touched down.  There was a squeal of brakes, the air brakes were applied, then the nose wheel dropped, slightly too hard, and bounced upward off the tarmac briefly.  Then, all three sets of landing gear were down.  Wheel brakes squealed, the air brakes roared, and eventually, the great airliner rolled to a stop.  

Virgil found himself once again releasing a breath that he'd forgotten he was holding, this time in a full-throated whoop of joy.  "They're down!"  he told his family at base and Alan in orbit on the satellite, all of whom also had been holding their respective breaths.  He vacated the cockpit of Thunderbird Two, and swung into her sickbay, picking up an EMT kit and portable anti-grav stretcher.  Then he ran toward the runway where the Fireflash had come to rest, between the waiting, and thankfully unneeded, crash-tender trucks. 

The emergency stairs were rolled up to the cockpit hatch halfway up in the tail plane of the huge aircraft.  Virgil was part-way up them when the hatch swung open, and Captain Hansen and Scott appeared, flanking a rather unsteady-looking Gordon, wearing a stubborn look on his face. 

Virgil tried to keep a straight face, as Scott's voice floated down.  "Gordon, I still think you should wait for the stretcher to get here..."

"Nah," Gordon replied, waving his bandage-swathed hands.  "I can make it on my own..."  Then he realized how high in the air he was, how long those stairs were, and fell back slightly, his eyes wide.  "On second thought..."

Scott spotted his brother already climbing up the ramp.  "Hey, Virg..."

Virgil raised his arms, indicating the items he carried.  "One AG stretcher, coming right up!"

Shortly afterwards, Virgil got Gordon settled in Thunderbird Two's sick bay, while Scott finished his statements for Commander Norman's report.  Virgil sank comfortably into the pilot seat, still chuckling and shaking his head over Gordon's rather drunken last words before he succumbed to the pain-killer Virgil had given him.

"Aah, there was nothin' to worry about.  It was just like fixing a fuse..."

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